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Colon cancer linked to bacteria: future treatment with antibiotics?

A significant percentage of colon cancers could be caused by a bacteria and -- if that’s indeed the case -- some tumors eventually may be prevented or treated with antibiotics, suggests a new research finding from the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Using gene sequencing techniques, the researchers found that areas of the colon where tumors are located were far more likely to contain high levels of Fusobacteria -- associated with appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease -- than other portions of the colon in the same patients that didn’t contain cancer.

“In general, some of the most common bacteria that live in the colon are harmless kinds like e. coli and enterobacteria,” said study leader Aleksandar Kostic, a doctoral candidate in biomedicine at Harvard Medical School. “But most colon cancer patients had Fusobacterium as the most prevalent type but only in areas where there were tumors.” Certain strains of the bacteria are known to cause dangerous inflammation if their growth is unchecked by other bacteria.

In about 10 percent to 15 percent of the 95 patients who participated in the study, Kostic said, more than half of the bacteria in malignant tissue was Fusobacteria. Future studies, he added, need to include at least 1,000 patients to better ascertain whether the association is real.
 
 

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