New Research Finds Link Between 5 Bacteria Types And Aggressive Prostate Cancer

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Scientists have just recently found a link between bacteria and some aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia have identified at least five types of bacteria considered quite common in urine and tissue samples from men that have been diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.

The hope is that these recent findings may help pave the way for groundbreaking treatments that could target these particular bacteria, slowing down or possibly preventing the development of this aggressive disease.

According to project lead, Professor Colin Cooper of UEA’s Norwich Medical School, “We already know of some strong associations between infections and cancer. For example, the presence of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the digestive tract can lead to stomach ulcers and is associated with stomach cancer, and some types of the HPV virus can cause cervical cancer. We wanted to find out whether bacteria could be linked to the way prostate cancer grows and spreads.”

Moreover, Dr. Jeremy Clark who’s also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, explained, “While prostate cancer is responsible for a large proportion of all male cancer deaths, it is more commonly a disease men die with rather than from. And little is known about what causes some prostate cancers to become more aggressive than others. We now have evidence that certain bacteria are involved in this and are part of the puzzle.”

The research team also worked with other colleagues from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the Quadram Institute, as well as other collaborators, to analyze the urine or tissue samples from over 600 patients with or without prostate cancer. During their research, they developed ways to find the bacteria that’s associated with the aggressive prostate cancer.

Dr. Rachel Hurst, first author of the study and also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, shared, “To detect the bacteria, we used many different approaches including whole genome sequencing of the tissue samples, a method which is being used increasingly as we transition into an era of genomic medicine. When tumor samples are sequenced, DNA from any pathogens present are also sequenced, making it possible to detect bacteria.”

“We found several types of bacteria associated with aggressive prostate cancer, some of which are new types of bacteria never found before,” she added.

From their findings, two of the new bacteria species that were found by the scientists were even named after two of the study’s funders, which are Porphyromonas bobii, after the The Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Varibaculum prostatecancerukia, after Prostate Cancer UK.

The two sets of bacteria that were found by the researchers were Anaerococcus, Peptoniphilus, Porphyromonas, Fenollaria, and Fusobacterium. These are categorized as anaerobic, meaning they like to grow without oxygen present.

Dr. Hurst said, “When any of these specific anaerobic bacteria were detected in the patient’s samples, it was linked to the presence of higher grades of prostate cancer and more rapid progression to aggressive disease. We also identified potential biological mechanisms of how these bacteria may be linked to cancer.”

She added, “Among the things we don’t yet know is how people pick up these bacteria, whether they are causing the cancer, or whether a poor immune response permits the growth of the bacteria.”

“But we hope that our findings and future work could lead to new treatment options, that could slow or prevent aggressive prostate cancer from developing. Our work could also lay the foundations for new tests that use bacteria to predict the most effective treatment for each man’s cancer,” she also said.

A Major Discovery for Men’s Health

The research team also shared that a number of these bacteria are beneficial to human life, which means that they can’t simply remove these harmful bacteria without also removing the protection that the good bacteria provide.

Prof Daniel Brewer, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and a visiting worker at the Earlham Institute, Professor Daniel Brewer noted, “Knowing when we can watch and wait or whether we need to start treatment is a major challenge for people with prostate cancer. If we can target aggressive cancers while sparing others from unnecessary treatment it will dramatically improve the way we manage this disease. There seems to be a clear link between these bacteria and the way the cancer is behaving. We need to understand this relationship in more detail but it’s a major step towards developing a cheap and quick test that could guide treatment decisions.”

Another collaborator, Prof John Wain from the Quadram Institute, said, “This research exemplifies the Norwich Research Park’s multidisciplinary approach to studying infection. The link between bacterial growth and cancer is not always straight forward and working with the cancer group at the Norwich Medical School has allowed us to demonstrate a possible link between bacteria living in the prostate and severe forms of prostate cancer.”

“By combining advanced computational analysis of DNA sequence data from the urine of patients with an in depth understanding of cancer biology and the ability to characterize new species of bacteria we were able to show an association between the presence of several bacteria and progression to an aggressive form of prostate cancer,” he added.

He also said, “This will now enable further work to determine if there are causal relationships between microbes and cancer.”

According to Research Impact Manager at Prostate Cancer UK, Dr. Hayley Luxton, said about the research, “This is an exciting discovery that has the potential to truly revolutionize treatment for men.”

The study was published in the European Urology Oncology journal.

He said, “We currently have no way of reliably identifying aggressive prostate cancers, and this research could help make sure men get the right treatment for them. If the team can demonstrate that these newly-identified bacteria can not only predict, but actually cause aggressive prostate cancer, for the first time we may actually be able to prevent prostate cancer occurring. This would be a huge breakthrough that could save thousands of lives each year.”