Specific bacterium linked to colorectal cancer

2011-10-19 08:53

High numbers of Fusobacterium found in colon cancer tumors

In an intriguing finding, researchers have linked a specific bacterium to colorectal cancer. Two separate teams of researchers have discovered high numbers of Fusobacterium in tumors of patients with colon and rectal cancer. The bacterium is pathogenic and linked to several diseases, including ulcerative colitis.

The research finding, which appears in the journal Genome Research, is the first to find any link between bacteria and colorectal cancer.

Researchers sequenced DNA from nine colon cancer tumors. They compared their finding to DNA in normal colon tissue, finding the high number of Fusobacterium only in colorectal cancer tumors.

Scientists from the BC Cancer Agency and Simon Fraser University in Canada report similar findings, after sequencing normal colon RNA and matching it with 11 colorectal cancer tissue samples.

They specifically found the Fusobacterium nucleatum bacterium, which is considered a mouth pathogen.


Senior study author, Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute said, “Tumors and their surroundings contain complex mixtures of cancer cells, normal cells, and a variety of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

Over the past decade, there has been an increasing focus on the relationship between cancer cells and their ‘microenvironment,’ specifically on the cell-to-cell interactions that may promote cancer formation and growth.”

Meyerson says the researchers aren’t clear what role Fusobacterium plays in the development of colorectal cancer. They’re not ready to say colorectal cancer is caused by bacteria. It may be the cancer provides a welcome environment for the bacteria to flourish.

Researchers know inflammation that accompanies infection and other diseases can lead to cancer.


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