Link Found Between Gum Disease and Esophageal Cancer

The bacteria porphyromonas gingivalis is found in 61% of patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma.

A connection has been found between a bacteria that causes gum disease and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC).

In fact, the bacteria porphyromonas gingivalis is found in 61% of patients with ESCC.

"These findings provide the first direct evidence that P. gingivalis infection could be a novel risk factor for ESCC, and may also serve as a prognostic biomarker for this type of cancer," said researcher Huizhi Wang, MD, PhD. "These data, if confirmed, indicate that eradication of a common oral pathogen may contribute to a reduction in the significant number of people suffering with ESCC."

The study, published in Infectious Agents and Cancer, took tissue samples from 100 patients with ESCC and 30 normal controls.

Researchers tested the samples to measure the expression of lysine-gingipain — an enzyme unique to P. gingivalis – and the bacterial cell DNA in the esophageal tissues.

The results of the study showed that the bacteria distinguishing enzyme and DNA were higher in the cancerous tissue than the surrounding tissue in the control sites. Furthermore, P. gingivalis had a correlation with other factors such as metastasis, cancer cell differentiation, and overall survival rate.

Researchers believe this is because ESCC cells are preferred area for P. gingivalis to thrive, which could make destroying the cells easier for researchers with the use of genetic technology, or it could be that P. gingivalis helps esophageal cancer develop.

"Should P. gingivalis prove to cause ESCC, the implications are enormous," Wang said. "It would suggest that improving oral hygiene may reduce ESCC risk; screening for P. gingivalis in dental plaque may identify susceptible subjects; and using antibiotics or other anti-bacterial strategies may prevent ESCC progression."