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Oncology Oral Pathology Supporting Your Practice

Research: Oral Bacteria in Pancreas Associated with Severity of Tumours

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New research published in March 2019 in BMJ Journals suggests that the presence of oral bacteria in cystic pancreatic tumours is associated with the severity of the tumour. This study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden could improve treatment and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, a disease that is often discovered late, has poor prognoses, and typically lethal outcomes.

Not All Pancreatic Tumours are Cancerous

While some pancreatic cysts do become cancerous, many pancreatic cysts are benign. But differentiating between tumour types (benign and cancerous) is difficult and requires surgery. By identifying bacteria inside the tumour, doctors could identify the severity of a tumour while eliminating the need for invasive surgery.

Treatment and Diagnosis

In an interview with Scientific Daily, Dr. Margaret Sällberg-Chen, study author and senior lecturer at the Department of Dental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet said, “We find most bacteria at the stage where the cysts are starting to show signs of cancer. What we hope is that this can be used as a biomarker for the early identification of the cancerous cysts that need to be surgically removed to cure cancer, this will in turn also reduce the amount of unnecessary surgery of benignant tumours. But first, studies will be needed to corroborate our findings.”

Method Overview

  • The team looked for the presence of bacteria in DNA in fluid drawn from pancreatic cysts in 105 patients.
  • They compared the severity and type of the tumours and found that fluid from the cyst.
  • They found that fluid the cysts with cancer contained a lot more bacterial DNA than cysts that were benign.

To identify the bacteria, researchers sequenced the DNA of 35 of the samples that had high amounts of bacterial DNA. They found large variations in the bacterial composition between different individuals, but also a greater presence of certain oral bacteria in fluid and tissue from cysts with high-grade dysplasia and cancer. (Source: Science Daily)

Looking Ahead

According to the researchers, the bacteria identified in their study has also been been shown, in earlier research, to be higher in the saliva of patients with pancreatic cancer. If these studies can be further replicated, showing that this bacteria affects the pathological process, it could help create new therapeutic strategies that use antibacterial agents.

The team also looked at other factors that could impact the amount of bacterial DNA found in tumour fluid. Bacterial DNA was found to be higher in patients who had received a pancreas endoscopy that could transfer oral bacteria from the mouth to the pancreas.

“The results were not completely unequivocal, so the endoscopy can’t be the whole answer to why the bacteria is there,” said Sällberg-Chen to Science Daily. “But maybe we can reduce the risk of transferring oral bacteria to the pancreas by rinsing the mouth with an antibacterial agent and ensuring good oral hygiene prior to examination. That would be an interesting clinical study.”

Read the study, “Enrichment of oral microbiota in early cystic precursors to invasive pancreatic cancer” to learn more.

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Until next time!

CDA Oasis Team

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