PHILADELPHIA(April 4, 2014) Colorectal cancer develops in what is probably the most complex environment in the human body, a place where human cells cohabitate with a colony of approximately 10 trillion bacteria, most of which are unknown. At the 2014 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in San Diego, researchers from The Wistar Institute will present findings that suggest the colon "microbiome" of gut bacteria can change the tumor microenvironment in a way that promotes the growth and spread of tumors.
Their results suggest that bacterial virulence proteins may suppress DNA repair proteins within the epithelial cells that line the colon. The research opens the possibility of modifying colon cancer risk by altering the population makeup of bacteria in the intestines of people at risk due to genetics or environmental exposure.
"There is a drastic, unmet need to look at new ways to define exactly how colon cancer forms in the gut and what triggers its progression into a lethal form," said Frank Rauscher, III, Ph.D., a professor in The Wistar Institute Cancer Center. "We suggest that some bacterial proteins can promote genetic changes that create conditions in the gut that would favor the progression of colon cancer."
While colorectal cancer incidence rates have declined, likely due to more widespread screening, survival rates have not. According to the American Cancer Society, about 50,000 Americans will die from colorectal cancer this year. "While our understanding of the gene mutations involved in colon cancer has improved, this has not lead to the promised increases in overall survival," Rauscher said.
Intestinal bacteria typically provide many benefits to their human hosts, aiding in digestion and crowding out more directly pathogenic bacteria. However, both "friendly" commensal bacteria and infective, pathogenic bacteria have been shown to actively reduce inflammation, an important tool used by the
|Contact: Greg Lester|
The Wistar Institute