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Expert Discusses Role of Vaginal Microbes in Endometrial Cancer Detection

Allie Strickler @Alliejayes
Published: Wednesday, Jan 18, 2017

Marina R.S. Walther-António, PhD

Marina R.S. Walther-António, PhD

A direct assessment of the uterine microbiome in patients with endometrial cancer has revealed a potential predictive role for vaginal microbes, according to the results of a novel study published in Genome Medicine.

, Walther-António discussed the most significant findings from this study, the major challenges in this research, and the next steps following her findings.

OncLive: Please discuss the rationale behind this study and some of the most significant findings.

Walther-António: The original idea was just that there was nothing out there that was known about the endometrial microbiome. There were recently some publications about the microbes in the uterus through indirect methods, but in terms of direct access, this was the first look.

What we’re trying to follow up that work with is actually a predictor marker, and for that, we’re using benign biopsies that patients have had in the past, and then these same patients developed cancer in a matter of months or years, so we’re trying to see if we can predict those patients who are at high risk for actually developing cancer and have developed it or not. That would be a predictor more toward early intervention or prevention, potentially in the future, if we do find some relation between the microbes and the disease itself that could be actionable. So that’s what we’re pursuing right now.

How were the microbiomes different exactly?

We did what’s called a 16S rDNA analysis. It can be used to basically fingerprint the bacteria. I like to think of it in the same way we have fingerprints between different people, the 16s signatures are fairly unique to the species level, or at least the genus level, so it allows us to know what we’re working with in a very fine way without having to do endometrial cultures. Even if we don’t know exactly what they do, we know who they are. So that’s how we did the experiment: we looked for that signature, and we found that that signature in that bacterial community in endometrial cancer patients was different from the ones without cancer.
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