Mayo Clinic researchers draw connection between microbiome and cancer from the same human breast tissue

The diverse community of bacteria that coexist in the human body has recently garnered great interest in medicine. For example, microorganisms found in the gut (also known as the gut microbiota) have been linked to inflammation and metabolic syndrome as well as other diseases. Now, researchers have found bacterial DNA in breast tissue biopsies that appear to be different in composition between women with and without breast cancer.

The study was done at the Mayo Clinic and headed up by Tina Hieken. Her team published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Our research found that breast tissue samples obtained in the operating room under sterile conditions contain bacterial DNA, even when there is no sign of infection,” said Hieken in a Mayo Clinic news release. "Furthermore, we identified significant differences in the breast tissue microbiome of women with cancer versus women without cancer."

In other studies, the microbiomes of other organs such as the gut, colon, liver, lung and skin can interact with the host in cancer, potentially worsening the outcome for the patient depending on the composition of bacteria and/or viruses.

Nick Chia, who is one of the microbiome researchers, added: “There is mounting evidence that changes in the breast microbiome may be implicated in cancer development and the aggressiveness of cancer and that eliminating dangerous microorganisms or restoring normal microbiota may reverse this process.”

The findings could be important for predicting and diagnosing breast cancer at an earlier stage, giving sufficient time for doctors to treat the cancer before it spreads, as well as potentially targeting the breast microbiome to alter the progression of breast cancer.

- here’s the release
- read the journal article

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