New evidence of link between oral microbiome and cancer

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Review offers evidence of link between oral microbiome and cancer

A recent review article sheds light on how the oral microbiome may influence the occurrence and progression of disease. (Image: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock)

SOLNA, Sweden: The oral cavity represents a complex microenvironment where a diverse microbial community flourishes. A recent review study, carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in collaboration with researchers in South Korea, Sri Lanka and Australia, has recently taken a deeper look at oral microbes and their potential impact on oral pathologies, including oral cancer. The data gathered in the review may help improve the diagnosis and management of oral disease.

“The topic of the association between cancer and the microbiome, including in the oral cavity, is a very timely one,” lead author Dr Georgios Belibasakis, professor of clinical oral infection biology and head of the Division of Oral Health and Periodontology in the Department of Dental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, told Dental Tribune International.

Prof. Georgios Belibasakis. (Image: Georgios Belibasakis)

Discussing the most interesting findings, he commented: “There are documented associations between oral dysplastic conditions, including oral cancer, and the oral microbiome. The associations do not necessarily imply a cause–effect relationship, but there can be a vicious circle between the establishment of a dysbiotic microbiome and the progression of oral pathologies. An important aspect is that the two major components of the oral microbiome, the bacteriome and the mycobiome, tend to act synergistically in the deterioration of oral pathologies. Moreover, the tumour microenvironment, depending also on the specific type, can favour the colonisation and invasion of certain microbial species that are clinically proven to be associated with a given neoplastic condition.”

The study has diagnostic and prognostic implications for oral medicine, and the researchers believe that the findings could help explain the complex interplay between bacteria and fungi in the oral cavity, thus leading to improved prevention and management of oral cancer. Additionally, Prof. Belibasakis noted that screening for alterations in the bacterial and/or fungal make-up of suspected sites could provide early indications or reveal the progression patterns of oral mucosal conditions such as oral cancer.

“Variations in the core microbiome of an individual may serve as predictive markers for any oral condition, including carcinogenesis. The available data enhances our understanding of the ecology of oral niches and their dysbiotic changes during oral mucosal dysplasia and oral cancer,” he commented. “This knowledge could support early diagnostic and prognostic tools as well as innovative treatments, making a quantum leap in oral medicine,” he concluded.

The study, titled “Bacteriome and mycobiome dysbiosis in oral mucosal dysplasia and oral cancer”, was published online on 19 March 2024 in Periodontology 2000.

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