In recent years, studies have been showing a connection between an unhealthy diet and colorectal cancer. However, the reason why an unhealthy diet causes the risk to go up has never really been clear. There have been theories but no concrete explanations. A study published in the journal Stem Cell Reports may shed some light on this relationship.

In this study, scientists discovered a cellular signaling pathway called RBP4-STRA6. This pathway drives the growth of cancer stem cells in the colon. It appears this growth is in response to a high-fat diet. This was discovered when scientists blocked this pathway in mice fed a high-fat diet. The ones who had the pathway blocked had cancer cell growth halted. The ones who were unblocked continued to have cancer cell growth.

Scientists speculate this new finding may be able to fuel the development of new treatments for colorectal cancer.


Karuanithi S., Levi L., et. al., "RBP4-STRA6 Pathway Driver Cancer Stem Cell Maintenance and Mediates High-Fat Diet-Induced Colon Carcinogenesis" Stem Cell Reports. Published: July 6, 2017. DOI:

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