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Faecal bacteria act as novel biomarkers for non-invasive diagnosis of colorectal cancer

China sees up to fourfold increase in occurrence of the disease 

The global incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing, and especially so in many Asian societies such as China, which has seen a two to fourfold upsurge in occurrence of the disease over the past decade.


Fusobacterium nucleatum was suggestively more profuse in colorectal cancer than control samples. Picture: SPL

Changes to the intestinal microbiological environment, comprising the colonies of commensal, interdependent and disease-causing microorganisms that inhabit the human body in health, have been implicated as possible aetiological factors for the development of this malignancy.

Bacterial entities

This study, undertaken by researchers from Hong Kong, Japan and the US, examined whether faecal bacterial entities were expedient non-invasive markers of this disease.

Two independent Asian cohorts were studied: 203 patients with colorectal cancer and 236 healthy control participants. Metagenomic sequencing of bacterial species was conducted and the significance of elevated levels examined.

Potential agents included four separate identified species: Fusobacterium nucleatum; Bacteroides clarus; Roseburia intestinalis; and Clostridium hathewayi, as well as one undefined species.

Fusobacterium nucleatum was suggestively more profuse in colorectal cancer than control samples, and a combined result of elevated levels of the four bacteria identified also showed improved indicative capacity, suggesting that the use of stool-based related bacteria sampling could provide an innovative investigative aid to the diagnosis of this form of cancer.

Liang J, Chiu J, Chen Y et al (2016) Fecal bacteria act as novel biomarkers for non-invasive diagnosis of colorectal cancer. Clinical Cancer Research. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-1599.

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