Researchers have found that the bacterial composition of breast tissue of healthy women is different from that of women with breast cancer. The study published in the journal Oncotarget showed 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.
Bacteria that live in the body, known as the microbiome, influence many diseases. Most research has been done on the “gut” microbiome, or bacteria in the digestive tract. But researchers have long suspected that a “microbiome” exists within breast tissue and plays a role in breast cancer but it has not yet been characterised. In this study, the research team from Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US, took the first step toward understanding the composition of the bacteria in breast cancer by uncovering distinct microbial differences in healthy and cancerous breast tissue. “To my knowledge, this is the first study to examine both breast tissue and distant sites of the body for bacterial differences in breast cancer,” said co-senior author Charis Eng, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute. “Our hope is to find a biomarker that would help us diagnose breast cancer quickly and easily. In our wildest dreams, we hope we can use microbiomics right before breast cancer forms and then prevent cancer with probiotics or antibiotics,” she added. The study examined the tissues of 78 patients who underwent mastectomy for invasive carcinoma or elective cosmetic breast surgery. In addition, they examined oral rinse and urine to determine the bacterial composition of these distant sites in the body. “If we can target specific pro-cancer bacteria, we may be able to make the environment less hospitable to cancer and enhance existing treatments,” co-senior author Stephen Grobymer said. “Larger studies are needed but this work is a solid first step in better understanding the significant role of bacterial imbalances in breast cancer,” Grobymer added.