Oncobiome – Microbiome and Cancer

Since most microbiome research so far has focused on the microbiome of the lower gut and stomach, many of us at CTMR have a long-standing interest in cancer of the gastro-intestinal tract. We have been at the frontline of Helicobacter pylori research since the 1980s, when H. pylori has been linked to gastric ulcers and gastric cancer. H. pyloriis actually one of the first established pathogens classified as a carcinogen according to the World Health Organisation. Yet, with the rapid advancements in the microbiome field, there is increasing evidence that the microbiome composition (incl. bacterial and viral pathogens and previously considered commensals) may also affect the risk of cancer, the prognosis and the response to treatment. Therefore, at CTMR we explore the association of the gut, vaginal and oral microbiome with different types of cancers, including yet not restricting to colon, breast and cervical cancer.

Some of the questions we aim to answer:

  • What is a healthy microbiome composition?
  • Is the microbiome different in individuals with (pre-) cancer compared to healthy individuals?
  • Can we use the microbiome to predict who is most likely to have or develop cancer?
  • Which factors are interacting in this microbiome-cancer association, including prescribed drug use (e.g. antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors), hormonal factors (sex differences), diet and other clinical and demographic characteristics?
  • Which cancer treatments do affect the microbiome, and which microbiome compositions lead to a higher treatment success and better prognosis?
  • Can we change the microbiome to improve treatment efficacy and prognosis?

Our translational approach is based on large clinical cohorts, as obtained through the Swedish Nationwide colorectal screening program (Screening of Swedish Colons, SCREESCO, Principal Investigator: Anna Forsberg) and population-based registry-based studies using the excellent Swedish Health Registries which can also be linked to our clinical cohorts. For these studies we have ongoing collaborations within Karolinska Institutet, nationally (including Jönköping University) and internationally.  

CTMR is also one of the core participants of the ongoing ONCOBIOME project (Funded by the European Union through the Horizon2020 framework), under the lead of Professor Lars Engstrand, and project coordinator Associate Professor Nele Brusselaers. This ONCOBIOME collaboration between 17 collaborators aims to explore the role of the microbiome in cancer, from early detection and diagnosis to treatment and prognosis.

More information about the ONCOBIOME project

Laura Poole