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Researchers say they've discovered how bacteria may set off bowel cancer

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Medical researchers now claim they have uncovered how bacteria may set off a chain reaction which in turn leads to bowel cancer. Commonly found in the mouth, fusobacteria causes overactive immune responses which leads to growth genes, two studies conducted in the United States have found.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The microbes had been linked with colorectal cancer previously. It wasn't known whether they were directly involved in tumor growth.

In addition to potential new treatments, the discovery could lead to better early diagnosis and prevention, doctors say.

Harvard Medical School researchers proved that fusobacteria were present in high numbers in adenomas, which is a benign bowel growth that can become cancerous over time.

The same research team did tests in mice proving that the bacteria sped up the formation of colorectal tumors by attracting special immune cells that invade and set off an inflammatory response which can lead to cancer.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in the second study showed that fusobacteria had a molecule on their surface which enabled them to attach to and invade human colorectal cancer cells.

The FadA molecule then switches on cancer growth genes and stimulates inflammatory responses to promote tumor formation.

A synthetic compound which blocked FadA was found to completely halt the process, raising the possibility it could one day be used as a preventive treatment.

The second team also confirmed that FadA levels were much higher in tissues from patients with adenomas and colorectal cancer compared with healthy individuals.

"Fusobacteria may provide not only a new way to group or describe colon cancers but also, more importantly, a new perspective on how to target pathways to halt tumor growth and spread," Dr. Wendy Garrett, lead author of Harvard study, said.

She added that in the future the presence of the bacteria in a tumor may be used to guide treatment decisions.

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