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Epigenetics

Epigenetics in action: Mouth bacteria activate cancer genes that cause colorectal cancer

Thursday, September 05, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: epigenetics, mouth bacteria, colorectal cancer


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(NaturalNews) Two new studies recently published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe help further clarify the role that human bacteria play in cancer development, a process that is still poorly understood by many experts. As it turns out, bacterial imbalances, specifically inside the mouth, can upset the body's natural immune response, potentially causing an activation of certain cancer genes. And according to the latest available data on the subject, this activation process can eventually spur on the growth and spread of colorectal cancer cells and resultant tumors inside the body.

If you were unaware of the fact that natural bacterial colonies reside inside both the gut and the mouth, it is probably because the mainstream scientific community has been slow to acknowledge not only their existence but also their importance in preserving human health. It is only just now becoming common knowledge that colonies of beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, are supposed to naturally populate the human gut, and that a lack of these necessary critters can impair immunity and disrupt digestion -- many people, in fact, still falsely believe that all bacteria are "bad."

But thanks to this new research, we now know that bacterial colonies also live inside the mouth, and just like in the gut, need to be properly balanced in order to exert certain physiological protections. One of these protections includes warding off cancer, a role that researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say cannot be performed where there is too much Fusobacteria, a genus of bacteria that includes the species F. nucleatum.

In the first study, scientists learned that Fusobacteria is present in some benign tumors that later turn out to actually be cancerous. Based on their observations of mice bred to have a human-like form of colorectal cancer, it appears as though Fusobacteria may have the capacity to actually latch on to tumor cells using a natural immune cell known as a myeloid cell, which it uses to penetrate tumors and cause inflammation, leading to cancer.

Maintaining healthy bacterial balance is key to preventing cancer, suggests research

This is a critical finding as it offer fresh insight into how tumor cells may be getting fed, so to speak, by other systems throughout the body. If bacterial imbalances have the capacity to literally hijack immune cells and use them to promote cancer, in other words, then public health agencies are left with no excuses as to why they are not actively developing preventative, nutrition-based systems that can help people replenish and balance the "good" bacteria living in their guts and mouths.

"Fusobacteria may provide not only a new way to group or describe colon cancers but also, more importantly a new perspective on how to target pathways to halt tumor spread and growth," Wendy Garrett, senior author of the study, said.

In the second study, researchers learned even more about how Fusobacteria induces tumor formation. On its surface, this particular bacterial strain possesses a molecule known as Fusobacterium adhesin A (FadA) that, like its name implies, has the ability to stick to other molecules and cells. In this case, FadA acts as a type of gateway for Fusobacteria to invade human colorectal cancer cells and feed their growth.

"We showed that FadA is a marker that can be used for the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer and identified potential therapeutic targets to treat or prevent this common and debilitating disease," explains Yiping Han from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Ohio, noting that healthy individuals tend to have much lower levels of FadA in their tissues than sick individuals do.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org

http://www.bbc.co.uk

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