Image shows P. gingivalis bacterium
University of Louisville School of Dentistry researchers have found a bacterial species responsible for gum disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, is present in 61 percent of patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). The findings, published recently in Infectious Agents and Cancer, only detected P. gingivalis in 12 percent of tissues adjacent to the cancerous cells, while this organism was undetected in normal esophageal tissue.
The research team measured the expression of lysine-gingipain, an enzyme unique to P. gingivalis, as well as the presence of the bacterial cell DNA within the esophageal tissues. Both the bacteria-distinguishing enzyme and its DNA were significantly higher in the cancerous tissue of ESCC patients than in surrounding tissue or normal control sites. The researchers also found the presence of P. gingivalis correlated with other factors, including cancer cell differentiation, metastasis and overall survival rate.
According to Wang, there are two likely explanations: either ESCC cells are a preferred niche for P. gingivalis to thrive or the infection of P. gingivalisfacilitates the development of esophageal cancer.
If the former is true, Wang says simple antibiotics may prove useful or researchers can develop other therapeutic approaches for esophageal cancer utilizing genetic technology to target the P. gingivalis and ultimately destroy the cancer cells.
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