Two new studies show how bacteria found in the mouth - known as oral fusobacteria - turn on cancer growth genes, leading to formation and growth of colorectal cancer.
These groundbreaking findings are likely to lead to more effective early diagnosis, prevention and treatment of this widespread disease, the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the US. Gut bacteria have previously been linked to colorectal cancer, but it was not clear until now whether they actually cause tumors to form - and if so, how they did it.
In this regard, fusobacteria may not only be a new way to understand how colon cancers form, but they may also provide a new perspective on how to halt such cancers from growing and spreading.
In the first of the two studies, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that fusobacteria are prevalent in human adenomas. These are benign tumors that can become malignant over time. In other words, these bacteria are present during the early stages of tumor formation and may even contribute to its future growth.
In fact, in a mouse model of colorectal cancer, fusobacteria was shown to speed up tumor formation by stimulating inflammatory responses that provoked the cancer cells to grow faster.
In the second study, researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine discovered that fusobacteria depend on a molecule called Fusobacterium adhesin A (FadA) - found on the surface of these bacteria - to attach to and invade human colorectal cancer cells.
Once attached, FadA then turns on cancer growth genes and stimulates inflammatory responses, which further triggers tumor growth.
Authors of the second study found that FadA levels were much higher in patients with adenomas and colorectal cancer, when compared with healthy individuals. Not only that, they also identified a chemical compound that can prevent FadA's unwelcome effects on cancer cells.
In other words, FadA can now be used as an early ‘marker’ for the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Also, a potential drug to treat or perhaps even prevent this deadly disease has also been identified.
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