In my parents’ generation, people suffered from stomach ulcers. Many thought it was due to the stress of modern life. Everything began to change in 1982 when two Australian scientists, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, discovered a new bacterium in the stomachs of ulcer patients called Helicobacter pylori, This discovery allowed people with gastritis and ulcers to be treated with antibiotics capable of killing this bacteria. Both scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005 for showing that these diseases were caused by bacteria, and were therefore nothing more than infectious diseases.
If you’ve read this article so far, you might be wondering what this story has to do with prostate cancer. The novelty is that a group of scientists decided to examine the bacteria present in the prostates of healthy people and those with prostate cancer, a study that discovered the bacteria that cause ulcers. And the results are encouraging.
If we exclude skin cancer, prostate cancer is most common in men. In most cases, this tumor develops slowly. The problem is that a fraction of these tumors are aggressive and can die quickly. Since the way to know whether a tumor is slow or fast is still poor, most doctors and patients prefer to remove the prostate as soon as the tumor is detected.
In this new study, scientists extracted prostate and urine samples from hundreds of healthy people and patients with prostate tumors. By sequencing the DNA from these samples and looking for specific bacterial sequences, the scientists discovered four new species of bacteria present in the prostate. Appearance is associated with tumors and, most importantly, with the most aggressive ones.
This discovery led to the start of studies to determine whether these bacteria caused tumors or had spread throughout the body. In addition, it will be possible to investigate whether antibiotic treatments can prevent, cure or avoid metastases. This result is preliminary, and the impact of this finding on tumor healing is still unknown: it may either radically modify this area of oncology (as was the case with intestinal bacteria), or it may be irrelevant. It is possible It’s too early to know.
* is a biologist, PhD in cellular and molecular biology at Cornell University and the author of The Arrival of the New Coronavirus in Brazil; Lotus Leaf, Mosquito Slide; And the long march of cannibalistic cricket