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Periodontal Bacterium Linked to Aggressive Colon Cancer

FEDERICA VIAZZI (AO AL), VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A recent study published in Nature reveals a potential link between a type of bacteria associated with dental plaque and treatment-resistant colorectal cancer. The Gram-negative, anaerobic bacterium, Fusobacterium nucleatum, was found in 50% of tumors tested, suggesting it may protect tumor cells from cancer-fighting drugs. This discovery opens avenues for new treatments and screening methods. Colorectal cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, is increasingly affecting younger demographics, with cases doubling among those younger than age 55 between 1995 and 2019.

While the study doesn’t directly tie the bacterium to this trend, its implications raise questions about its role in rising cases among younger individuals. F. nucleatum has been suspected in colorectal cancer growth. It possesses two subspecies, one of which is capable of evading immune response and promoting tumor formation. These findings suggest a potential mechanism for its journey from the oral cavity to the colon, defying stomach acid’s toxic effects.

Future research may explore developing antibiotics targeting specific bacterial subtypes or using genetically modified bacteria for targeted drug delivery into tumors. Understanding the microbiome’s role in cancer risk represents a crucial frontier in cancer research.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. April/May 2024; 22(3):10

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