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Linking Infectious Agents and Cancer – A Metagenomics Approach

SOF128
  • Project Leaders: Richard Moore, Rob Holt
  • Institutions: BC Cancer Agency (BCCA)
  • Budget: $237,296
  • Competition: Strategic Opportunities Fund - Round 3
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome BC
  • Fiscal Year: 2010
  • Status: Closed

Multiple factors can contribute to the development of cancer including lifestyle choices, diet, environment and family history. Surprisingly, more than 20% of cancer cases worldwide are associated with infectious agents including viruses and bacteria. While some of these infectious agents such as human papillomavirus or the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, are already known, there are likely more infectious cancer-causing agents yet to be discovered. The project confirmed the over-representation of Fusobacterium nucleatum in colo-rectal tumors. They also found that tumor overrepresentation of microbes that are recognized as emerging pathogens, including Campylobacter and Leptotrichia. Future studies will examine the role of these organisms in colo-rectal cancer. Understanding how infectious agents are involved in cancer may lead to new prevention and treatment strategies for cancer (vaccination or anti-microbial agents). This project helped BC scientists to make important contributions to the international Human Microbiome Project, which is focused on sequence profiling the normal human microbial (bacterial, archeal, fungal and viral) flora, and the Canadian Microbiome Initiative, which is smaller in scale and targeted to microbial pathology and translational medicine.