Discovery of bacteria linked to prostate cancer hailed as potential breakthrough
Scientists don’t yet know if the microbes are causative, but if proven it could save thousands of lives
Wed 20 Apr 2022 00.01 BST
Scientists have discovered bacteria linked to aggressive prostate cancer in work hailed as a potential revolution for the prevention and treatment of the most deadly form of the disease.
Researchers led by the University of East Anglia performed sophisticated genetic analyses on the urine and prostate tissue of more than 600 men with and without prostate cancer and found five species of bacteria linked to rapid progression of the disease.
The study does not prove that the bacteria drive or exacerbate prostate cancer, but if work now under way confirms their role, researchers can develop tests to identify men most at risk and potentially find antibiotics to prevent the cancer from claiming thousands of lives each year.
“This is an exciting discovery that has the potential to truly revolutionise treatment for men,” said Dr Hayley Luxton of Prostate Cancer UK, which co-funded the research.
Writing in the journal European Urology Oncology, the scientists describe how their genetic investigations found five species of bacteria – three new to science – that were associated with advanced prostate cancer. Men who had one or more of the species in their urine, prostate or tumour tissue were 2.6 times more likely to see their early stage cancer progress to advanced disease than men who did not.
Lead scientist Colin Cooper, a professor of cancer genetics at the University of East Anglia, said it was possible the bacteria are not involved in the disease. For example, men with more aggressive prostate cancer may have immune system deficiencies that allow certain bacteria to thrive. But the researchers strongly suspect the microbes are involved, just as Helicobacter pylori infections raise the risk of stomach cancer.
“If you knew for sure that a species of bacteria was causing prostate cancer, you could work out an antibiotic to remove it and that would prevent progression, one would hope,” Cooper said. But this is not as straightforward as it sounds, he cautioned. “There are many complications. Antibiotics don’t get into the prostate very well and you would need to choose an antibiotic that only kills certain bacteria,” he said.
Urine bugs may be a sign of aggressive prostate cancer
By Michelle Roberts
Digital health editorPublished1 hour ago
Scientists say they have identified urine bacteria which are linked to aggressive prostate cancer.
The discovery might provide new ways to spot and even prevent these dangerous tumours, experts hope.
It’s too soon to say if the bacteria might cause the cancer, rather than just be a helpful marker.
The University of East Anglia team which found the link plan more work to see if clearing the infection with antibiotics might prevent bad tumours.
Bacterial infection is known to play a part in the development of other cancers – a bug called H. pylori can trigger stomach cancer, for example, and a course of antibiotics can get rid of this risk.
For this latest work, published in the journal European Urology Oncology, the researchers studied more than 600 patients with and without prostate cancer, to assess how useful the urine bacterial test was.
They identified five types of bacteria which were common in urine and tissue samples from men whose cancers ultimately went on to be aggressive.
All were types of bacteria that can grow without oxygen. Some were brand new types, never found until now.
Two of the new bacteria species found by the team have been named after two of the study’s funders – Porphyromonas bobii, after the The Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Varibaculum prostatecancerukia, after Prostate Cancer UK.
Dr Rachel Hurst, one of the research team, said: “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.”
Her colleague Prof Colin Cooper, who co-led the research, told the BBC he was very confident that the findings were real – they had followed rigorous measures to make sure there was no chance of contamination as they carried out the lab work.
He said it was possible that some of these bacteria make hormones that drive the development of aggressive tumours.
Dr Sam Godfrey from Cancer Research UK, said: “Nearly four in 10 cancers in the UK are linked to known risk factors such as smoking and obesity. But there are other cancer-causing risk factors, such as bacteria, that we are only just beginning to identify.
“More studies are needed to establish how these bacteria are involved in prostate cancer growth, but this research could help lead to new screening and prevention tools that would help reduce the impact of these cancers on society.”
Five Types of Bacteria Linked to Aggressive Prostate Cancer in Study
THE PRESS ASSOCIATION (Nina Massey, PA Science Correspondent)
20 April 2022, 7:01 am MYT