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Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot about Fusobacterium nucleatum in the news. It’s a mouthful – in more ways than one. Recent studies have shown a link between this oral bacteria and colon cancer. We sat down with Dr. Laura Porter, a stage IV survivor and member of our CCA Medical & Scientific Advisory Board, for the full scoop.

The Good, the Bacteria and the Ugly

Following my advice from my post late last month, I did some literature searches to see what was up.

[caption id="attachment_207" align="alignright" width="239"]Dr. Laura Porter, MD, stage IV colon cancer survivor Dr. Laura Porter, MD, stage IV colon cancer survivor[/caption]

Our bodies – including our colons – are home to trillions of tiny bacteria, most of which we never even notice. The “good bacteria” that lives in our digestive system actually help keep us healthy – from assisting with digestion to working with our immune system.

The recent headlines we’ve been seeing in the news are about a “bad bacteria” called Fusobacterium nucleatum.

It’s not normally found in a healthy digestive system, and has been found in connection with advanced periodontal (aka gum) disease. But that’s not all. Besides gum disease, Fusobacterium nucleaumt has been found to cause liver and brain abscesses, venous thrombosis or clots and a life-threatening condition called Lemierre syndrome.

The Link to Colon Cancer

So what’s the link to colon cancer? Here’s what researchers discovered about Fusobacterium nucleatum:

  • Has been found in pre-cancerous colon tumors and stool of those with colon cancer
  • Was not commonly found in surrounding normal tissue
  • Causes inflammation, which is believed to be a risk factor for the development of colon cancer
  • It is not known if it is causative or an opportunistic infection
  • Has been studied in human colon tissue, human cell lines and mice all with the same results: present in adenomas and tumors and not present in normal healthy tissue

But here’s the good news:

 As Senior author Wendy Garrett, of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the US, told the press, "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 growth and spread."

So What’s the Bottom Line?

Although there’s been a lot of hype, larger studies need to be done before we can definitively say this bacterium contributes to the development of colon – or any other – cancer.

The hope is that Fusobacterium may be able to be used as a biomarker for colon cancer – that is, a way for scientists to determine whether a screening test, chemotherapy or other test may be effective for you based on your genetic profile.

See more: What Your Genes Say About Your Cancer

Although it won’t prevent colon cancer, brushing your teeth, flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly are great ways to keep your body and your colon happy.

For more information about colon cancer, call our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030 or visit www.ccalliance.org


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