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Bugs have a role in breast cancer

It’s that time of the year when the pink ribbons begin to fly everywhere & women are urged to concentrate on this part of their anatomy whose mention is still a taboo in most societies. In this country it still tops the list of cancers affecting women & major campaigns are undertaken throughout the month to bring awareness. On a personal front I just have to look around in the immediate circle of friends & family to list afflicted members galore, fortunately many survivors but also many who succumbed.

So the latest research uncovering the role of bacteria in breast cancer really made me sit up to take notice. Once the teams studied the differences in the bacterial composition of breast tissue of healthy women vs. women with breast cancer they discovered for the first time that healthy breast tissue contains more of the bacterial species Methylobacterium. a finding which could offer a new perspective in the battle against breast cancer.

I have spoken at length about the role of bacteria that live in the body that make up our microbiome and how they influence many diseases.  Mostly we think of those in the gut, billions & trillions of them at any given time. But remember that “microbiome” exists on other parts of the body too including the skin, lungs, genital & urinary tracts . Breast of course is mainly fat with ducts that lies just  beneath the skin. For the first time the bacteria living  within the breast tissue were studied at the Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute. Their aim was to find a biomarker that would help diagnose breast cancer quickly and easily.

Published online in Oncotarget on Oct. 5, 2017, the study examined the tissues of 78 patients who underwent mastectomy ( breast removal) for invasive cancer or elective cosmetic breast surgery. They found an excess of Methylobacterium in healthy breasts vs the cancerous ones. Also, there was difference in the cancer patients’ urine microbiomes. They had increased levels of gram-positive bacteria, including Staphylococcus and Actinomyces.

So what do we make of this information?

Dr. Stephen Grobymer, M.D., said, “If we can target specific pro-cancer bacteria, we may be able to make the environment less hospitable to cancer and enhance existing treatments.” So can we add to the alkaline diet, exercise, hormones imbalance knowledge to prevent breast cancer by manipulating the bugs in our body?

Larger studies are needed but this work is a solid first step. This ground breaking study provides direction to study further the use of nanoparticles targeting these pro-cancer bacteria. This group is working towards developing new treatments using nanotechnology to deliver antibiotics directly to the bacteria in breast cancer.

Never imagined that bugs will be linked to breast cancer. To quote the authors of this work” In our wildest dreams, we hope we can use microbiomics right before breast cancer forms and then prevent cancer with probiotics or antibiotics.” So can we please stop trying to eliminate the germs from our environment? Many are our sincere friends….

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