Could Your Intestinal Microbiome Hold Clues About Your Colon Cancer Risk? New Research Suggests It Could.

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Written by InnovativeResearch on February 7, 2018. Posted in Blog

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and new research suggests that there could be a link between developing colon cancer and the presence of two common types of bacteria in the gut.

A new study published in the journal Science finds that two specific types of gut bacteria - Bacteroides fragilis and a strain of E. coli - may work together when it comes to the growth of tumors in the colon.

This is the latest in a growing body of research that suggests that the intestinal microbiome may play a key role in the immune system overall.

So how, exactly, do these two bacteria contribute to the development of colon cancer?

As the New York Times reports, these two identified strains of bacteria are able to work together to pierce the mucus shield lining the colon. Once past this protective lining, the bacteria is then able to grow into a thin film that covers the intestinal lining with microbes.

E. coli releases a toxin that damages the DNA of colon cells, while B. fragilis produces a different toxin that both damages the DNA and inflames the cells. In combination, these two bacteria can feed tumor growth.

What are the implications of having this bacteria in the gut?

These bacteria are not present in all people. For those who do have this bacteria present in the gut, its thought that they acquire the microbes in childhood where they simply become part of the mass of gut bacteria. Its not clear whether these bacteria would ever become a problem for most people who have them, but the new research suggests that they may contribute to taking precancerous cells and accelerating them down the path toward cancer.

The bacterial duo has been detected at the earliest stages of colon cancer, whereas they were found to be mainly absent form colon tissue samples from healthy people.

What's next?

More research is needed to determine whether these findings could be used to find any type of treatment down the road, but the findings show promise in developing preventative strategies in the future, like looking for bacteria during routine colonoscopies, and possibly even developing vaccines against one or both of the bacterial strains.

Learn More: Gut Microbes Combine to Cause Colon Cancer, Study Suggests. By GINA KOLATA FEB. 1, 2018


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