Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers find possible link between bacterium and colon cancer

Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute have 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 it.

In a study published online in the journal Genome Research, investigators report 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, the study authors say.

The journal is also publishing a paper by researchers from the BC Cancer Agency and Simon Fraser University in Canada that reports similar findings from research conducted independently of the Dana-Farber/Broad Institute collaboration.

A confirmed connection between Fusobacterium and the onset of colorectal cancer would mark the first time any microorganism has been found to play a role in this type of cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that colon cancer will cause more than 49,000 deaths in the U.S. this year, and more than 141,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease.

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. Analysis of the data turned up unusually large amounts of Fusobacterium's signature DNA in the tumor tissue.

"Tumors and their surroundings contain complex mixtures of cancer cells, normal cells, and a variety of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses," says the study's senior author, Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute. "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."

While the relationship – if any – between colorectal cancer and Fusobacterium is unclear, there are intriguing hints that the bacterium may play a role in the cancer, says Meyerson, who is co-director of the Center for Cancer Genome Discovery at Dana-Farber and a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School. Previous studies have suggested that Fusobacterium is associated with inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis, which can raise people's risk of developing colon cancer.

"At this point, we don't know what the connection between Fusobacterium and colon cancer might be," Meyerson observes. "It may be that the bacterium is essential for cancer growth, or that cancer simply provides a hospitable environment for the bacterium. Further research is needed to see what the link is."

Researchers are embarking on comparison studies of Fusobacterium levels in larger numbers of patients with colorectal cancer and in those without the disease. Also planned are studies to determine whether the bacterium can be used to induce colon cancer in animal models.

The study's lead author is Aleksandar Kostic of the Broad Institute. Co-authors include Dirk Gevers, PhD, Ashlee Earl, PhD, Joonil Jung, PhD, and Bruce Birren, PhD, Broad Institute; Chandra Sekhar Pedamallu, PhD, Fujiko Duke, Akinyemi Ojesina, MD, PhD, and Adam Bass, MD, Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute; Ramesh Shivdasani, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber; Wendy Garrett, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber, Broad Institute, and Harvard School of Public Health; Curtis Huttenhower, PhD, Broad Institute and Harvard School of Public Health; Monia Michaud, MS, Harvard School of Public Health; Josep Tabernero, MD, and Jose Baselga, MD, Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Barcelona, Spain; Chen Liu, MD, PhD, University of Florida College of Medicine; and Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber, and Harvard School of Public Health.

The study was supported by grants from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and the Starr Cancer Consortium.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ( is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute. It provides adult cancer care with Brigham and Women's Hospital as Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center and it provides pediatric care with Children's Hospital Boston as Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center. Dana-Farber is the top ranked cancer center in New England, according to U.S. News & World Report, and one of the largest recipients among independent hospitals of National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health grant funding.

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was launched in 2004 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods, and data openly to the entire scientific community.

Founded by MIT, Harvard and its affiliated hospitals, and the visionary Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the Broad Institute includes faculty, professional staff, and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and beyond, with collaborations spanning over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. For further information about the Broad Institute, go to

EDITOR'S NOTE: A video of this story is also available online at:

Anne Doerr/Rob Levy | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>