New MALDI-TOF research suggests a link between prostate cancer and low "oxygen" loving bacteria
Low oxygen “loving” bacteria, similar to those associated with stomach cancer, may play an important role in the development or progression of prostate cancer, according to research by the BCI and Queen Mary University of London.
Using a revolutionary MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry technique to identify different bacteria, the team studied 18 patients with early prostate cancer and found that 44% had multiple bacterial organisms that thrived in low oxygen, compared with 0% in 10 healthy volunteers.
While the research was only carried out in a small number of patients, the degree of significance was equivalent to the association between smoking 5-9 cigarettes a day and the risk of developing lung cancer.
A new approach to understanding prostate cancer
The preliminary findings of the research, published today in Scientific Reports, could provide new insights into the causes of prostate cancer, which until now, has not shown any association with bacteria or infection.
Lead investigator Professor Tim Oliver (right), who with the support of the male cancer charity Orchid has explored the possibility of this unique link for over 21 years, provides this new evidence aided by QMUL medical students Roshni Bhudia, Onyinye Akpenyi and bacteriologist Mark Wilks.
Despite their abundance within the human body, very little is known about the precise role of these bacteria, which can survive and grow with almost no oxygen.
As human tumours continue to grow, they are unable to maintain an adequate oxygen supply – providing the perfect environment for these bacteria to grow.
So called, ‘anaerobic’ bacteria are increasingly recognised as being able to thrive under a background of long-term vitamin D deficiency, associated with a lack of sunlight exposure – something that Professor Tim Oliver believes future prevention strategies should address.
Our preliminary data provides an exciting opportunity to further investigate the possible link between vitamin D deficiency and prostate cancer. We hope to address these key questions through ongoing trials such as PROVENT at Barts, to enable us to better educate men on the importance of lifestyle factors in their risk of developing male cancers.
Next generation technology
The study also highlights the major advantages of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry in enabling more efficient identification of bacteria.
This newer technology, made available as a result of a grant from the Barts Charity, enables cost-effective and rapid identification of bacterial cultures, to a much higher standard than traditional biochemical methods.
Using MALDI-TOF enables rapid and reliable identification of bacteria which were previously impossible to identify, making this kind of study possible
After smearing a bacterial culture sample onto a metal plate, a high energy laser is used to separate the sample into its constituent particles. These high energy particles travel towards a detector where they are analysed and weighed. By comparing the unique mixture of particles against a reference library, the computer is able to recognise the different bacteria present.