Bacterial colonization of the microbiome linked to the development of ovarian cancer
Did you know? A recent discovery published in Scientific Reports revealed that microbial colonization in the reproductive tract is associated with ovarian cancer. This article explains this potential connection in detail. Before that, let’s understand the current impact of ovarian cancer in the U.S.
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Impact of ovarian cancer in the U.S.
Ovarian cancer (OC) is the second most common gynecological malignancy and ranks as the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. The American Cancer Society predicts that in 2023, approximately 20,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S., resulting in nearly 13,000 deaths.
These alarming statistics primarily stem from late-stage diagnoses and poor prognoses for ovarian cancer. Due to the absence of symptoms in the early stages, most women are only diagnosed when the disease has progressed significantly. To combat this problem, it is imperative to seek care at a reputed oncology cancer center and identify potential warning signs to facilitate early detection and diagnosis.
Moreover, while approximately 20% of ovarian cancer cases are attributed to genetic mutations, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, the cause of the remaining 80% is currently unknown and believed to be acquired rather than inherited.
Here’s the new scientific discovery
According to a recent study conducted by Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine, women with ovarian cancer often have a specific set of microbes in their reproductive tract. This finding supports the idea that the bacterial component of the microbiome, which includes microorganisms like viruses, yeasts, and fungi, can be an important factor in the early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis of ovarian cancer.
The study found that women with early-stage ovarian cancer had a significantly higher concentration of these harmful microbes compared to those with later-stage disease. As cancer progresses, the number of microbes decreases. This discovery could potentially lead to earlier diagnosis and the ability to save lives, similar to how a noninvasive Pap smear is used to detect cervical cancer.
Additionally, the study suggests that a higher accumulation of these specific microbes may be associated with a worse prognosis for women with ovarian cancer. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between the microbiome and this deadly disease.
The researchers explain that they examined whether patients who experienced similar outcomes had a comparable microbial composition prior to receiving treatment, regardless of cancer stage, grade, histology, or other factors. The results revealed that patients with a greater presence of harmful microbes had worse outcomes compared to those who did not.
Focusing on pathogenic microorganisms
The study involved the examination of samples from 30 women with ovarian cancer who were undergoing a hysterectomy and compared them to samples from 34 women undergoing a hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition. The researchers utilized high-throughput sequencing to analyze the samples, which were obtained from various reproductive tract areas, peritoneal fluid, urine, and the anal microbiome. The team discovered the presence of disease-causing bacteria, such as Dialister, Corynebacterium, Prevotella, and Peptoniphilus, in women with ovarian cancer.
According to Dr. Marina Walther-Antonio, a microbiome researcher at Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine, these microorganisms have been linked to various diseases, including other types of cancers. However, further research is required to determine their specific contribution to ovarian cancer.
Dr. Walther-Antonio, an associate of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, specializes in researching female health and gynecological cancers. She explains that the ultimate objective is to understand the microbiome's role in gynecologic cancers, including its potential involvement in disease development, progression, and resistance to treatment.
Dr. Walther-Antonio and her team have conducted an extension of their previous studies, which have established a connection between the microbiome and endometrial cancer. One of their findings was that the microbe Porphyromonas somerae plays a role in the development of endometrial cancer through its intracellular activity.
By identifying specific microbiome patterns, Dr. Walther-Antonio believes that it may be possible to predict the occurrence of malignancies and intervene before cancer forms. This study represents a significant advancement in our understanding of the microbiome's potential for prognostic purposes and brings us closer to being able to provide better care for our patients, according to Dr. Walther-Antonio.
As mentioned already, this entire research reveals only the association between microbes and cancer. However, more studies are needed to determine know if microbes are a contributing driver of ovarian cancer.
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