A new study has found strikingly high levels of a bacterium in colorectal cancers, suggesting that it might contribute to the disease and potentially be a key to diagnosing, preventing, and treating it.
Investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute discovered abnormally large number of Fusobacterium cells in nine colorectal tumour samples.
While the spike does not necessarily mean the bacterium helps cause colorectal cancer, it offers an enticing lead for further research, the study authors said.
A confirmed connection between Fusobacterium and the onset of colorectal cancer would mark the first time any microorganism has been found to play a role in this type of cancer.
The discovery was made by sequencing the DNA within nine samples of normal colon tissue and nine of colorectal cancer tissue, and validated by sequencing 95 paired DNA samples from normal colon tissue and colon cancer tissue.
Analysis of the data turned up unusually large amounts of Fusobacterium’s signature DNA in the tumour tissue.
While the relationship – if any – between colorectal cancer and Fusobacterium is unclear, there are intriguing hints that the bacterium may play a role in the cancer, said the study’s senior author, Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute.
Previous studies have suggested that Fusobacterium is associated with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which can raise risk of developing colon cancer.
The study was published online in the journal Genome Research.