Scientists discover the cause of colon cancer

Credit: Copyright A. Heddergott/ TUM

In a new study, researchers find the cause of colon cancer. The disease is caused by bacteria and cell stress.

The study originally wanted to study the role of bacteria in the intestines in the development of intestinal inflammation.

But it found bacteria together with stress in cells caused tumors (exclusively in the colon) and without the involvement of inflammation.

In the study, experiments were initially done using the mouse model.

In germ-free (i.e. sterile) animals, in which the activated transcription factor ATF6 regulated stress in the intestinal mucosa (intestinal epithelium), no change could be observed.

But as soon as the microbiota were transplanted back into germ-free animals, tumors developed in the colon of the mice.

Using Koch’s postulates, the team were able to show that microorganisms are involved in the development of cancer in the colon.

The transcription factor ATF6 regulates stress in cells, and the intensity and duration of activation are increased with diseases.

The researchers then analyzed data of 541 patients with colon cancer.

In those cases where the level of transcription factor ATF6, which triggers cell stress, was highly increased. About 10% of patients were at risk of getting colon cancer a second time.

In certain patients, the protein ATF6 could serve as a diagnostic marker for an increased risk of colon cancer and could indicate the start of therapy at an early stage.

The researchers suggest a microbial therapy is conceivable when they know more about the composition of the bacterial flora.

What now became clear is chronic inflammation has no effect on cancer development in the colon.

The study is published in Gastroenterology.

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Source: Gastroenterology.