Numerous clinical and experimental studies suggest that gastrin plays an important part in the development of colorectal cancer in humans. This study was done to assess the influence of omeprazole induced hypergastrinaemia on the development of colorectal tumours in an experimental animal model. Forty female Sprague-Dawley rats received either omeprazole (40 mumol/kg) or vehicle (0.25% methylcellulose) by once daily oral gavage throughout the experiment. All animals received 12 consecutive weekly subcutaneous injections of azoxymethane (10 mg/kg/week) beginning at week 6. Serum gastrin concentrations were measured during weeks 1 and 5 and at death (week 27). Chronic omeprazole treatment resulted in appreciable hypergastrinaemia during the study, mean gastrin concentrations in omeprazole treated rats being raised by up to nine to 10 fold, compared with vehicle treated control rats (p < 0.001). Despite this, tumour incidence in the omeprazole group was significantly lower at 63%, compared with 95% in the vehicle only group (p < 0.02). The median number of tumours in the omeprazole group (1) compared with the vehicle group (3) was also significantly lower (p = 0.02). Average tumour size, site distribution, and the comparative frequencies of adenomas and adenocarcinomas were similar in the two groups. This study shows that omeprazole protects against colorectal carcinogenesis in this model despite causing appreciable hypergastrinaemia. The mechanism by which this occurs is unclear and merits further investigation. Because of the compounding protective effects of omeprazole, this model is not a suitable one for studying the longterm trophic effects of gastrin on the colon.
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