Differences in the bacterial composition of breast tissue have been revealed by researchers at Cleveland Clinic while studying the tissue of healthy women vs. those with breast cancer. What they’ve discovered is that the breast tissue of healthy women contains higher levels of the bacterial species Methylobacterium. This finding could help in the development of new, more effective breast cancer treatments moving forward.
Microbiomes are bacteria that live within the body that are responsible for influencing various diseases. Although we’ve known for a long time that microbiomes exist in the gut, we’ve never really explored them in the breast until more recently. This research is the first step toward understanding how this bacterium develops in the breast by looking at distinct microbial differences between the cancerous and healthy tissue samples.
“To my knowledge this is the first study to examine both breast tissue and distant sites of the body for bacterial differences in breast cancer,” said co-senior author of the study, chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, and director of the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare, Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D. “we hope to find a biomarker that would help us diagnose breast cancer quickly and easily.”
The study involved examining the tissue of 78 patients who had been in the hospital for a mastectomy for elective cosmetic breast surgery or for invasive carcinoma. They also took both urine and oral rinse samples to determine the bacterial composition of these distant sites. In addition to the Methylobacterium find the researchers discovered that cancer patient’s urine samples had high levels of gram-positive bacteria which may be a key to understanding and developing better treatments for breast cancer.
“If we can target specific pro-cancer bacteria, we may be able to make the environment less hospitable to cancer and enhance existing treatments. Larger studies are needed, but this work is a solid first step in better understanding the role significant role of bacterial imbalances in breast cancer,” said co-senior author Stephen Grobymer, M.D.
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