But thanks to this new research, we now know that bacterial colonies also live inside the mouth, and just like in the gut, need to be properly balanced in order to exert certain physiological protections. One of these protections includes warding off cancer, a role that researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say cannot be performed where there is too much Fusobacteria, a genus of bacteria that includes the species F. nucleatum.
In the first study, scientists learned that Fusobacteria is present in some benign tumors that later turn out to actually be cancerous. Based on their observations of mice bred to have a human-like form of colorectal cancer, it appears as though Fusobacteria may have the capacity to actually latch on to tumor cells using a natural immune cell known as a myeloid cell, which it uses to penetrate tumors and cause inflammation, leading to cancer.
Maintaining healthy bacterial balance is key to preventing cancer, suggests research
This is a critical finding as it offer fresh insight into how tumor cells may be getting fed, so to speak, by other systems throughout the body. If bacterial imbalances have the capacity to literally hijack immune cells and use them to promote cancer, in other words, then public health agencies are left with no excuses as to why they are not actively developing preventative, nutrition-based systems that can help people replenish and balance the “good” bacteria living in their guts and mouths.
“Fusobacteria may provide not only a new way to group or describe colon cancers but also, more importantly a new perspective on how to target pathways to halt tumor spread and growth,” Wendy Garrett, senior author of the study, said.
In the second study, researchers learned even more about how Fusobacteria induces tumor formation. On its surface, this particular bacterial strain possesses a molecule known as Fusobacterium adhesin A (FadA) that, like its name implies, has the ability to stick to other molecules and cells. In this case, FadA acts as a type of gateway for Fusobacteria to invade human colorectal cancer cells and feed their growth.
“We showed that FadA is a marker that can be used for the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer and identified potential therapeutic targets to treat or prevent this common and debilitating disease,” explains Yiping Han from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Ohio, noting that healthy individuals tend to have much lower levels of FadA in their tissues than sick individuals do.
Ethan A. Huff
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