Some bacteria known as fusobacteria that commonly are found in the mouth use a sugar-binding protein to stick to developing colorectal polyps and cancers, reports the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine.
Understanding this mechanism could help fight colorectal cancer, as it might help researchers develop ways to block fusobacteria from homing in on colorectal tumors, said Wendy Garrett, MD, PhD, the study’s co-senior author and associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Chan School.
“Alternatively, and perhaps more importantly, our findings suggest that drugs targeting the same or similar mechanisms of bacterial sugar-binding proteins could potentially prevent these bacteria from exacerbating colorectal cancer,” Garrett said.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, and microbes have emerged as key factors that influence its development and progression. The researchers used human samples as well as mouse models to confirm their new findings.