Oral Bacteria May Accelerate Pancreatic Cancer Development According to New Study by Hebrew University Researchers

Updated on March 28, 2024

A new study indicates that oral bacteria leading to periodontal (gum) disease could accelerate pancreatic cancer development, one of the deadliest types of cancer.

According to the study published in Gut, A BMJ Journal, the research team led by Prof. Gabriel Nussbaum of the Institute of Biomedical and Oral Research at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine, uncovered the complex relationship between oral microbiota, notably Porphyromonas gingivalis, and the acceleration of pancreatic cancer development. The study offers new insights into early detection, prevention, and potential therapeutic avenues.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most prevalent disease of the pancreas accounting for more than 90% of all malignancies. Early detection is difficult and once it spreads to other organs, the five-year survival rate is 15%.

PDAC has previously been linked to the presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis and by introducing the bacterium to genetically engineered biological models predisposed to PDAC, the team uncovered compelling evidence of accelerated cancer development.

The findings indicate that P. gingivalis was detected in the pancreas of healthy biological models after applying it to the gingiva (gums) and that prolonged exposure altered the microbial balance in the pancreas. The research also showed that the genetic mutation helped P. gingivalis survive inside cells and that the bacteria supported the survival of pancreatic cancer cells even when conditions were unhospitable. 

“The study underscores the significance of considering oral health in understanding and tackling pancreatic cancer,” says Prof. Nussbaum. “By exploring the role of bacteria like P. gingivalis, we’re not only shedding light on potential risk factors but also uncovering new avenues for intervention and treatment.”

These insights open up new horizons for future research and could lead to more effective strategies for preventing and treating pancreatic cancer.

The research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation.

The study titled “Oral bacteria accelerate pancreatic cancer development in mice” was published in Gut, A BMJ Journal, and can be accessed here.

Oral Bacteria May Accelerate Pancreatic Cancer Development According to New Study by Hebrew University Researchers
Title: Infected with P. gingivalis Description: Pancreas sections from control and P. gingivalis-infected biological model. Model infected with P. gingivalis – pancreas showing full-blown pancreatic cancer.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s premier academic and research institution. Serving over 23,000 students from 80 countries, the university produces nearly 40% of Israel’s civilian scientific research and has received over 11,000 patents. Faculty and alumni of the Hebrew University have won eight Nobel Prizes and a Fields Medal. For more information about the Hebrew University, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en

About American Friends of the Hebrew University

American Friends of the Hebrew University (AFHU) is a national, not-for-profit organization based in the United States. AFHU is headquartered in New York and has seven regional offices working in close partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. AFHU provides supporters, Hebrew University alumni, and the public with stimulating programs and events and organizes missions to Israel. The organization’s fundraising activities support scholarly and scientific achievement at the Hebrew University, create scholarships, construct new facilities, and assist the university’s efforts to attract and retain outstanding faculty. 

For more information, please visit http://www.afhu.org/

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