Some interesting research is emerging on whether a certain type of bacterial infection may be the cause of colon cancer. Two research groups in British Columbia and Massachusetts have reported a strong association between Fusobacterium species and colorectal cancer. Both groups found that this species of bacteria was much more prevalent in colorectal tumors than in healthy colon.
The interesting thing about this study was that they both had similar results in very different geographical regions. These bacteria are typically found in the mouth and are a cause of dental cavities and plaque. Now we realize the Fusobacterium species invade colorectal cells and produce a significant inflammatory response. Some recent studies have linked these bacteria with inflammatory bowel disease which is associated with risk for colorectal cancer.
If future studies establish that this bacteria triggers colorectal cancer, who knows…..we may be able to treat this type of cancer with antibiotics and eventually a vaccine.
References: Kostic AD et al. Genomic analysis identifies association of Fusobacterium with colorectal carcinoma. Genome Res 2011 Oct 18; [e-pub ahead of print]. http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gr.126573.111).
Castellarin M et al. Fusobacterium nucleatum infection is prevalent in human colorectal carcinoma. Genome Res 2011 Oct 18; [e-pub ahead of print]. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gr.126516.111).