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Bacterium linked to colon cancers

United Press International

10-19-11

U.S. scientists found high levels of the bacterium Fusobacterium in colorectal cancers, the first time any microorganism played a role in this cancer type.

Senior author Dr. Matthew Meyerson at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute found strikingly high levels of a bacterium in colorectal cancers, a sign that it might contribute to the disease and potentially be a key to diagnosing, preventing and treating this common type of cancer.

The study, published online in the journal Genome Research, reported the discovery of an abnormally large number of Fusobacterium cells in nine colorectal tumor samples.

While the spike does not necessarily mean the bacterium helps cause colorectal cancer, it offers an enticing lead for further research, Meyerson said.

The research team said the discovery was made by sequencing the DNA within nine samples of normal colon tissue and nine of colorectal cancer tissue and validated by sequencing 95 paired DNA samples from normal colon tissue and colon cancer tissue.

"Tumors and their surroundings contain complex mixtures of cancer cells, normal cells and a variety of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses," Meyerson said in a statement. "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."

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