Colon Cancer's Secret Agent

Fusobacterium associated with colorectal cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Finding a link to a disease can lead to new ways to diagnose and treat the disease. For colorectal cancer, scientists may have discovered its beginning which could lead to new treatments.

Independent research teams have discovered that fusobacterium was found more often in colon cancer tissue than normal healthy tissue. This is the first bacteria to be linked to colon cancer. For scientists, this microorganism can be a way to indicate colon cancer leading to new treatments and ways to diagnose colon cancer.

"Everyone should get a screening colonoscopy at age 50."

According to Dr. Robert Holt, from the BC Cancer Agency and Simon Fraser University, fusobacterium is known to cause disease but it was never associated with cancer. Fusobacterium is a common contributor to many human diseases including gum diseases.

One research team was looking at RNA in cancerous and healthy tissue while another team was looking at DNA and discovered fusobacterium was found associated with the presence of malignant tumors.

This bacteria has also been linked to ulcerative colitis, a risk factor for colon cancer but is not common inside the colon. Inflammation (the hallmark of ulcerative colitis) of the colon has been one of the major risk factors associated with colon cancer. Adding this bacteria as a risk factor can lead scientists and researchers to better understand how colon cancer works and what may treat it. It could also lead to other microbes being associated with colon cancer.

At this early stage, it is unclear whether fusobacterium is a cause or a result of malignant tumors in the colon. This bacteria can be used by scientists to genetically indicate colon cancer. If it is shown to cause colon cancer, therapeutic treatments which can treat or prevent colon cancer could undergo clinical trials.

This study was published in the October 2011 edition of Genome Research.

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Review Date: 
October 17, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2011