Two separate studies have found abnormally high levels of Fusobacterium cells in colon cancer tumors – a finding that may help diagnose, treat, and one day even prevent the disease.
Scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute in Boston, along with researchers from BC Cancer Agency and Simon Fraser University in Canada, have reported similar findings in independently conducted research.
The presence of the bacterium does not necessarily mean it causes causes colon cancer, scientists caution, but the discovery may pave the way for an eventual breakthrough in the fight against the deadly disease.
“Over the past decade, there has been an increasing focus on the relationship between cancer cells and their ‘microenvironment,’ specifically on the cell-to-cell interactions that may promote cancer formation and growth,” says the study’s senior author, Matthew Meyerson, M.D.
Earlier studies have linked Fusobacterium with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which can raise a person’s risk of developing colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the nation, and it will kill an estimated 49,000 people in the U.S. this year, according to The American Cancer Society.