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Editing of gut bacteria reduces cancer in mice with colitis

The beginning of novel approaches to cancer prevention among individuals who are at risk of chronic intestinal inflammation.

Researchers have found that editing of the genes of the bacteria present in the guts of mice could help reduce the inflammation and associated risk of colorectal cancers. The research from the UT Southwestern scientists has been published this week in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine. The study is titled, “Editing of the gut microbiota reduces carcinogenesis in mouse models of colitis-associated colorectal cancer.”

Over 1.6 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with half suffering from ulcerative colitis and the other half suffering from Crohn’s disease. Dr. Ezra Burstein, Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Biology and Chief of UT Southwestern’s Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases, lead author of the study, explained that persons with IBD have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancers.

Colorectal cancers have been listed as the third most common cancers and the second largest cause of cancer-related deaths around the globe says the World Health Organization. Further the risk of colorectal cancers rises by three to seven times in persons who suffer from IBD. Dr. Burstein said, because of this persons suffering from IBD are screened regularly for colorectal cancers. They get three to ten times more number of colonoscopies compared to normal individuals, he said.

Co-author Dr. Sebastian Winter, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and a W.W. Caruth, Jr. Scholar in Biomedical Research explained that those suffering from IBD have a clear imbalance and alteration of their microbiome or gut bacteria. Their bacterial colonization in the gut is significantly different from those who have normal intestines.

Burstein explained that this study showed that the risk of colon cancers could be reduced if the gut microbiome could be altered in the mice. He said in a statement, “The most significant finding in this study is that manipulating the intestinal microbiome is sufficient to affect the development of tumors. One could envision a time in which medications that change the behaviour and composition of the bacteria that live in the gut will be part of the treatment for IBD.” Dr. Winter said, “Our intestinal tract is teeming with microbes, many of which are beneficial and contribute to our overall health. Yet, under certain conditions, the normal function of these microbial communities can be disturbed. An overabundance of certain microbes is associated with increased risk for the development of diseases, including certain cancers.”

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Posted on: August 3 2019

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