The gastrointestinal system plays a pivotal role in influencing our general well-being and our reactions to medical treatments. Within it resides an extensive collection of microorganisms, referred to as the gut microbiota, which exists in immense numbers. Scientific investigations have solidified the significant contribution of these microorganisms in preserving the health of the gastrointestinal tract, and their influence on various conditions, including cancer, is widely acknowledged. So, how can we harness the potential of the gut microbiota to predict and prevent colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer, one of the most prevalent forms of cancer globally, has long been a significant health concern. Early detection plays a crucial role in successful treatment, but traditional screening methods, such as colonoscopies, can be invasive and often result in patient discomfort. The Moffitt Cancer Center study focused on the development of a non-invasive screening technique using fecal biobanking to detect early signs of colorectal cancer.
Dr. Doratha A. Byrd, an assistant member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, concentrates her research on examining the connections between changeable dietary and lifestyle factors, the microbiome, and the risk and development of cancer. Her primary objective is to employ comprehensive strategies to tackle disparities in cancer within the field of microbiome research.
During a presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, Byrd discussed a study focused on gathering a wide range of fecal samples from various populations. The purpose of this research was to enhance our understanding of the connection between the microbiome and cancer, specifically colorectal cancer.
The United States ranks colorectal cancer as the second highest contributor to cancer-related deaths. Variances in colorectal cancer rates exist across various populations, including African Americans and residents of rural areas. Factors such as lifestyle choices, socioeconomic conditions, and environmental influences are believed to contribute to these discrepancies by influencing the composition of the gut microbiome and its interaction with cancer.
“The trillions of microbes in the gut have consistently been associated with the development and progression of cancer,” Byrd said. “Few gut microbiome studies in the literature have been conducted among populations that are historically underrepresented in science and that are disproportionately impacted by cancer, such as African Americans and certain subgroups of Hispanic/Latino individuals.”
In order to enhance understanding in the field, research on microbiomes should encompass a wide range of populations and gather information on alterable factors that contribute to variations in colorectal cancer rates.
Byrd is gathering fecal samples from a wide range of patients, including individuals who may lack access to colonoscopy screenings, using fecal immunochemical tests (FIT). This approach aims to enhance our comprehension of these disparities and the impact of the microbiome on cancer.
“We will establish a prospective gut microbiome biobank cohort embedded within community clinics in the Tampa Bay area,” Byrd said. “We will investigate potentially unique associations of the gut microbiome with cancer among this diverse population.”
The objective is to gather stool samples from a diverse set of individuals in order to establish microbiome groups. These groups will be utilized for studying various medical conditions, such as colorectal cancer, and gaining insights into the role of gut bacteria. The results indicate that employing FIT (fecal immunochemical test) as a viable and economical method for collecting these samples holds promise and could serve as a valuable resource for investigating disparities in cancer research.
Byrd gathers and preserves leftover samples from FITs (fecal immunochemical tests) conducted at local clinics in the Tampa Bay region to create these groups. People who undergo a FIT provide a sample, and the extra portion is stored at Moffitt. Initial information is collected, which will later be connected to medical records and cancer registry data for further monitoring. The initial phase of the study commenced at a Federally Qualified Health Center, and so far, 72 individuals have been enrolled.
Byrd’s research revealed the cost-efficient and feasible usefulness of utilizing leftover FIT samples to investigate the connection between gut bacteria and various diseases in different populations. The biobank will prove to be a valuable asset for studying the influence of the microbiome on diseases.
Byrd plans to carry out more preliminary studies using FIT samples and cooperate with other research organizations to gain a deeper understanding. Ultimately, her objective is to conduct thorough investigations to determine if actionable gut microbiome exposures are linked to disparities in colorectal cancer.