Study Finds Bacteria May Protect Against Breast Cancer

August 01, 2014
Bacteria May Protect Against Breast Cancer
A groundbreaking study by a John Wayne Cancer Institute research team is focusing on the role of bacteria in breast cancer prevention. The study, directed by Delphine J. Lee, MD, PhD, found evidence that bacteria is more prevalent in healthy breast tissue compared to tissue from a cancerous breast tumor.

Published in January in the journal PLOS ONE, the study will help advance the growing field of cancer immunology, which explores the role of infections and immune system response in cancer.

Dr. Lee, director of the department of translational immunology in the Dirks/Dougherty Laboratory for Cancer Research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and her colleagues also found that the fewer bacteria present in breast tumor tissue, the greater the odds that the patient had advanced disease. Thus, measuring the amount of bacteria could provide information on diagnosing and staging breast cancer.

It could be that bacteria in breast tissue rallies immune cells to do their jobs in fighting off cancer, Dr. Lee explains. Healthy levels of bacteria may have cancer-fighting properties in other parts of the body as well. With further research, it may be possible to use bacteria to create strategies to prevent cancer or new therapies to stop cancer in its tracks.