Oral bacteria may accelerate pancreatic cancer development according to new study by Hebrew University researchers

A new study by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers indicates that oral bacteria leading to periodontal disease could accelerate pancreatic cancer development, one of the deadliest types of cancer.

Hebrew University
Pancreas sections from control and P gingivalis-infected biological model. Model infected with P gingivalis pancreas showing full-blown pancreatic cancer. (Image: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

According to the study published in Gut, A BMJ Journal, the research team led by Prof Gabriel Nussbaum of the Institute of Biomedical and Oral Research at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine, uncovered the complex relationship between oral microbiota, notably Porphyromonas gingivalis, and the acceleration of pancreatic cancer development. The study offers new insights into early detection, prevention, and potential therapeutic avenues.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most prevalent disease of the pancreas accounting for more than 90% of all malignancies. Early detection is difficult and once it spreads to other organs, the five-year survival rate is 15%.

PDAC has previously been linked to the presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis and by introducing the bacterium to genetically engineered biological models predisposed to PDAC, the team uncovered compelling evidence of accelerated cancer development.

The findings indicate that P gingivalis was detected in the pancreas of healthy biological models after applying it to the gingiva and that prolonged exposure altered the microbial balance in the pancreas. The research also showed that the genetic mutation helped P gingivalis survive inside cells and that the bacteria supported the survival of pancreatic cancer cells even when conditions were unhospitable.

“The study underscores the significance of considering oral health in understanding and tackling pancreatic cancer,” said Prof Nussbaum. “By exploring the role of bacteria like P gingivalis, we are not only shedding light on potential risk factors but also uncovering new avenues for intervention and treatment.”

According to the university, these insights open up new horizons for future research and could lead to more effective strategies for preventing and treating pancreatic cancer. The research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation.

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