Specific type of gut bacteria can enable development and dissemination of colorectal cancer

Scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School recently reported that a specific type of bacteria that reside in the gut can enable development and dissemination of colorectal cancer. 

This type of bacteria, Fusobacterium, was previously shown to be associated with IBD and colorectal cancer, but this new scientific report shows that cancer cells maintain a symbiotic relationship with Fusobacterium bacteria, even during dissemination from the colon, and can even spread to another organism.  Treatment with antibiotics reduced both bacterial load and tumor growth.  Scientist showed that these bacteria can destroy mucosal cells by damaging DNA and may fuel the growth of cancer cells.

This is an important breakthrough, which may open a promising venue for development of a novel treatment approach for colorectal cancer:  a drug or engineered virus that might counteract cancer by killing specific cancer-supporting bacterial species.  However, it is important to note that much more research will be required to determine whether such an approach would be feasible.

For more information, please refer to a recent article in the New York Times. And to a recent publication in the journal Science.

Nataly Shtraizent, PhD

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