ecancermedicalscience

Special Issue

Colorectal carcinogenesis: an archetype of gut microbiota–host interaction

5 Sep 2018
James L Alexander, Alasdair J Scott, Anna L Pouncey, Julian Marchesi, James Kinross, Julian Teare

Sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC) remains a major cause of worldwide mortality. Epidemiological evidence of markedly increased risk in populations that migrate to Western countries, or adopt their lifestyle, suggests that CRC is a disease whose aetiology is defined primarily by interactions between the host and his environment. The gut microbiome sits directly at this interface and is now increasingly recognised as a modulator of colorectal carcinogenesis. Bacteria such as Fusobacterium nucleatum and Escherichia coli (E. Coli) are found in abundance in patients with CRC and have been shown in experimental studies to promote neoplasia. A whole armamentarium of bacteriaderived oncogenic mechanisms has been defined, including the subversion of apoptosis and the production of genotoxins and pro-inflammatory factors. But the microbiota may also be protective: for example, they are implicated in the metabolism of dietary fibre to produce butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, which is anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. Indeed, although our understanding of this immensely complex, highly individualised and multi-faceted relationship is expanding rapidly, many questions remain: Can we define friends and foes, and drivers and passengers? What are the critical functions of the microbiota in the context of colorectal neoplasia?

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