Bacteria are part of the human body, and their total number may exceed the number of human cells. Traditional analyses described bacteria on the skin and in the gastrointestinal tract but, in the last few years, it has been shown that bacteria are also found in many human tumors. The Straussman lab has been a leader in characterizing the presence of intra-tumor bacteria and their functions in various types of solid tumors. For example, the lab demonstrated that bacteria can be found in human pancreatic tumors and may contribute to drug resistance. Those bacteria were shown to “hide” inside the cancer cells and protect them from the commonly used, anti-cancer drug, gemcitabine, by degrading the drug and inactivating it.
Dr. Straussman and his team now propose to study the role of bacteria in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common brain tumor, for which treatment options are very limited. They have demonstrated that bacteria are commonly found in these tumors, and they have collected a large number of human GBM tumor samples for further systematic analysis. They will study the identity and location of bacteria in these tumors. At the same time, they will study the presence of bacteria in the normal human brain. While we usually think of our brain as sterile, preliminary results from the Straussman lab show the opposite. The Straussman laboratory’s unique collection of cancerous and normal brain tissues should afford them the opportunity to meticulously characterize bacteria in the normal brain and in tumors of the brain, and to ask how bacteria affect responses to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and the tumor immune landscape. They hope that their findings can lead to completely new options for therapy.
Content courtesy of the Israel Cancer Research Fund