Bacterial Colonies in Body Linked to Presence of Cancer in Mouth and Throat


Bacteria in our mouths could be a tool for finding and fighting cancer.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found a link between the makeup of a person's microbiome and head and neck cancer. This finding could potentially help doctors diagnose cancer faster so that it can be treated earlier.

The research was published in Oncotarget with a report that says that populations of the human microbiome, the collection of normal bacteria living in the human body, can help discriminate between patients with head and neck cancer and healthy individuals.

Trillions of microbes colonize the adult body.

According to Rafael Guerrero-Preston, Dr. P.H., M.P.H., assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a member of its Kimmel Cancer Center, “Our findings suggest that we may one day use the composition of the microbiome to test for disease.”

Changes in the microbe community have already been tied to the risk and presence of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer. As scientists learn more on how microbes are connected with cancer and cancer risk factors such as genetic predisposition, smoking, and other environmental factors, they hope to create individualized screening and treatment plans for cancer patients and for those with a high risk of developing the disease.

Bacterial populations were different in cancerous versus noncancerous samples.

Those in the study who had tumors had larger populations of Streptococcus, Dialister and Veillonella genera, as well as decreased populations of Neisseria, Aggregatibacter, Haemophilus and Leptotrichia genera with respect to controls. Tumor samples also showed increased prevalence of these bacterial populations.

If the differences in the microbiome between cancerous and non-cancerous/HPV-positive and HPV-negative tumors are confirmed in further studies with more patients, doctors may be able to use the same sequencing tools as Guerrero-Preston to quickly and accurately screen and diagnose patients based on the bacteria present in their mouths.

Source: Medical News Today,


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