Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women and is the second most common gynecologic malignancy. An estimated 20,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer by 2023 and nearly 13,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Most affected women are usually diagnosed at an advanced stage, as early-stage disease is often asymptomatic. Furthermore, only 20% of cases are caused by genetic mutations, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, while the remaining 80% have no known cause.
A specific colonization of microbes in the reproductive tract is commonly found in women with ovarian cancer, according to a study from Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine. The discovery reinforces the evidence that the bacterial component of the microbiome – a community of microorganisms that is also made up of viruses, yeasts and fungi – is an important indicator for the early detection, diagnosis and prognosis of ovarian cancer.
For the study, the researchers analyzed samples from 30 women who underwent a hysterectomy for ovarian cancer and compared them with 34 other women who underwent a hysterectomy for benign disease. They used high-throughput sequencing for analysis.
In women with ovarian cancer, the team observed a colonization of disease-causing bacteria such as Dialister, Corynebacterium, Prevotella and Peptoniphilus.
The work is an expansion of several others previously published by the team that link the microbiome to endometrial cancer. Previously, they discovered that a microbe called Porphyromonas somerae plays a pathogenic role in endometrial cancer through its intracellular activity.
Identifying microbiome signatures to predict the development of malignancies could lead to intervention before cancers have a chance to materialize.
The study suggests that increased accumulation of pathogenic microbes plays a role in treatment outcomes and could be a potential indicator to predict a patient’s prognosis and response to therapy.