Microbial Metabolomics: A Search for the Missing Link to Cancer

Jane De Lartigue, PhD
Published: Friday, Feb 08, 2019
The microbes that inhabit the epithelial surfaces of our body, known collectively as the microbiota, vastly outnumber our own cells and genetic material. They have piqued scientific interest since their discovery in the mid-880s.

Although the science is in its infancy, research that hones our understanding of microbial metabolomic profiles could allow earlier diagnosis of disease and the development of new prognostic biomarkers for cancer types that are desperately lacking in these areas. New therapeutic strategies aimed at manipulating the microbiota also offer a unique and potentially promising avenue of research.

The Ecological Niche Within

The first recorded observations of bacteria in the intestines of healthy individuals were made more than a century ago.1 Since then there has been a growing appreciation of the extent of this intestinal ecosystem and its impact on human health. Ultimately, at the turn of the millennium, advances in genome sequencing and research initiatives, such as the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, propelled the microbiota into an exciting new era at the forefront of contemporary medicine.2

Dysbiosis in Cancer

Some changes in the microbiota create an imbalance in their mutualistic relationship, known as dysbiosis, which can have negative consequences for the host. A growing body of evidence indicates a link between dysbiosis and the development of disease, including various types of cancer.7
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