Gut Microbes May Be a Risk Factor for Colorectal Cancer

—Findings have potential implications for prevention and treatment of the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.—

Released: 12/3/2013 5:00 PM EST
Embargo expired: 12/6/2013 4:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: NYU Langone Medical Center
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Citations Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Newswise — (New York City) December 6, 2013 -- In one of the largest epidemiological studies of human gut bacteria and colorectal cancer ever conducted, a team of researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center has found a clear association between gut bacteria and colorectal cancer. The study, published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, discovered that colorectal cancer patients had fewer beneficial bacteria and more harmful bacteria than people without the disease.

"Our findings are important because identification of these microbes may open the door for colorectal cancer prevention and treatment,” says Jiyoung Ahn, PhD, assistant professor of population health, and a member of NYU Cancer Institute, who led the study.

The human gut hosts thousands of bacteria, which play an important role in regulating food digestion and inflammation. Mounting evidence links gut microbes to colorectal cancer, a condition diagnosed in 143,000 people in the U.S. each year. The disease kills an estimated 51,000 Americans, second only to lung cancer. However, it is not well understood why colorectal cancer develops.

The researchers compared the DNA composition of intestinal microbes in the stool samples of 141 colorectal cancer patients and healthy volunteers. They found that samples from colorectal-cancer patients had larger populations of Fusobacteria than healthy volunteers. Fusobacteria commonly found in the mouth and gastrointestinal track, are associated with gut inflammation.

Moreover, case samples were more likely than the controls to be depleted of Clostridia, a class of beneficial gut bacteria that help digest dietary fiber and carbohydrates.

“Our next step is to study how diet and lifestyle factors modulate these gut bacteria associated with colorectal cancer. This may lead to ways to prevent this disease” says Dr. Ahn.

This research was supported through funding from the National Institutes of Health. Key collaborators include Liying Yang, MD, research assistant professor of Medicine.

About NYU Langone Medical Center
NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated, academic medical center, is one on the nation’s premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of four hospitals – Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; the Hospital for Joint Diseases, one of only five hospitals in the nation dedicated to orthopaedics and rheumatology; Hassenfeld Pediatric Center, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children’s health services; and the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the world’s first university-affiliated facility devoted entirely to rehabilitation medicine– plus NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. The medical center’s tri-fold mission to serve, teach and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education and research. For more information, go to www.NYULMC.org.


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