Public Release: 

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center review the microbiome and its possible role in cancers

NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

(New York City, October 20, 2011) In the October 20th edition of the journal Cell Host and Microbe, Drs. Claudia Plottel and Martin J. Blaser of the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and the Department of Biology at New York University, present a model for understanding how cancer evolves in humans based on an understanding of the bacteria living in our body, the microbiome.

The authors suggest that the bacteria that reside in us play a crucial role in maintaining our health. This starts early in our lives, when a newborn is "seeded" with bacteria in the birth canal. This relationship changes later in life during our eventual decline and deterioration.

They also show that early exposures to bacteria like H. pylori might protect us early in life but may also be associated with gastric cancers later in life. The authors discuss the potential impact of gut bacterial genes that code for enzymes that metabolize estrogen, which they define as the estrobolome.

"The estrobolome provides a framework for understanding how an individual's resident gut bacteria may modulate lifetime estrogen exposure," said Dr. Plottel. "States of estrogen excess are associated with an increased risk of developing estrogen-related cancers, so knowledge and characterization of the estrabolome represents a novel area of promising scientific and biomedical research."

Dr. Blaser added, "Understanding and harnessing the microbiome will allow us to develop improved preventives, diagnostics, and treatments for many cancers. This is an incredible opportunity for medical science."

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This work was supported by R01GM63270, R01DK090989, UH2 AR057506, 5 P30 CA016087, and 1UL1RR029893 from the National Institutes of Health and by the Diane Belfer Program for Human Microecology, and by the Margaret Q. Landenberger Foundation.

About NYU Langone Medical Center:

NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated, academic medical center, is one on the nation's premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of three hospitals - Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the first rehabilitation hospital in the world; and the Hospital for Joint Diseases, one of only five hospitals in the nations dedicated to orthopaedics and rheumatology - plus the NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousand of physicians and scientists who have helped to share the course of medical history. The medical center's tri-fold mission to serve, teach and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education and research. For more information, go to www.NYULMC.org.

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