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What Is Cancer Bacteria?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2016
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Research into the causes of cancer has produced information on genetic mutations along with viral causes, but studies into potential cancer bacteria also point to certain bacterial origins of the disease. An example is the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach, which is known to cause stomach ulcers, but appears to also increase the likelihood of stomach cancer developing. Scientists looking into the potential connections of bacteria and cancers find hints to the possible link when unexpected numbers of a certain bacteria turn up in cancerous tissue.

Viral causes of cancers are commonly known, and vaccines are even available for some. An example of a virus that can be tackled with a vaccine is human papillomavirus (HPV,) which is sexually transmitted and can cause cervical cancer later in life. The hepatitis C virus is also well-known as a cause of cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. Cancer bacteria, though, are part of a completely different group of organisms to the viruses, as bacteria are cells and viruses are merely strands of genetic material wrapped in protective proteins.

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Genetic mutations are a significant field of interest in cancer research, where many types of tumors have been associated with specific mutations in the genes of the affected person. Many mechanisms by which the mutations affect the development of the cancers have also been made clear, but in the case of tumors caused, or potentially caused, by microbes like viruses and bacteria, these mechanisms are, as of 2012, still unknown. Sometimes the only reason a cancer bacteria is proposed is because researchers have noticed its presence in cancerous tissue, where it was not expected to be found.

For example, in 2011, researchers at the British Columbia Cancer Agency tested colon cancer tissue and found that a certain kind of bacteria, called Fusobacterium, was present in the cancer at levels much higher than elsewhere in the body, and that the bacteria were also more likely to occur in cancers that had spread. Although this does not prove that the bacteria caused the cancer in the first place, it provides a jumping off point for further investigations into the interaction between the bacteria and the cancer cells. Helicobacter pylori, which is associated with stomach cancer, is thought to help trigger the cancer through the constant irritation and turnover of cells of the original ulcers it causes. Another possible type of cancer bacteria through indirect, or even direct mechanisms, is Chlamydia trachomatis, a sexually transmitted disease that appears to work in conjunction with HPV to produce cervical cancer.

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Drentel
Post 3

The article mentioned that colon cancer was one of the cancers in which scientist had noticed high levels of a specific bacteria. Think how many lives could be saved if doctors could cure or prevent colon cancer.

Sporkasia
Post 2
Drentel, I agree that antibiotics to fight specific types of cancer would go a long way toward gaining the upper hand on the disease, and maybe the idea that cancer could be caused by bacteria is not so far out there.

Remember, it was not that long ago that we did not know about the link between some viruses and cancer, and now scientists have developed vaccines that are being administered to prevent the disease from developing. A few years, or a couple decades, ago this would have seemed impossible.

In many ways, cancer remains a mystery and there is still much research to be completed on bacteria and cancer, but it is exciting to read about and to imagine the possibilities.

And, yes, I share your sentiment. That would be great news!

Drentel
Post 1

The article does not make a direct link between cancer and bacteria as a cause, but the presence of high levels of specific bacteria with certain cancers is an interesting connection.

Is it me, or does it sound strange to anyone else that cancer could be caused by bacteria? And doesn't that mean that creating an antibiotic is a possibility if there is a direct link between bacteria and cancer? Wouldn't that be great news?

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