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15-Hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase inactivation as a mechanism of resistance to celecoxib chemoprevention of colon tumors.Pharmacologic inhibitors of the prostaglandin-synthesizing COX-2 oncogene prevent the development of premalignant human colon adenomas. However, resistance to treatment is common. In this study, we show that the adenoma prevention activity of the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib requires the concomitant presence of the 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH) tumor suppressor gene, and that loss of 15-PGDH expression imparts resistance to celecoxib's anti-tumor effects. We first demonstrate that the adenoma-preventive activity of celecoxib is abrogated in mice genetically lacking 15-PGDH. In FVB mice, celecoxib prevents 85% of azoxymethane-induced tumors >1 mm in size, but is essentially inactive in preventing tumor induction in 15-PGDH-null animals. Indeed, celecoxib treated 15-PGDH null animals develop more tumors than do celecoxib naive WT mice. In parallel with the loss of tumor prevention activity, celecoxib-mediated suppression of colonic PGE(2) levels is also markedly attenuated in 15-PGDH-null versus WT mice. Finally, as predicted by the murine models, humans with low colonic 15-PGDH levels also exhibit celecoxib resistance. Specifically, in a colon adenoma prevention trial, in all cases tested, individuals who developed new adenomas while receiving celecoxib treatment were also found as having low colonic 15-PGDH levels.