The Connection Between Oral Bacteria and Tumors – What You Need to Know

Research has shown that along with gum disease, poor oral hygiene habits can negatively impact overall health as well. Along with a potentially elevated risk of serious and often life-threatening illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, oral bacteria connected to periodontal disease has also been identified in human colorectal tumors in colon cancer patients. While a direct cause and effect relationship has not been identified, a new study suggests that a particular oral pathogen, Fusobacterium nucleatum, might actually interfere with the immune system’s ability to successfully attack colorectal tumors.

Bacteria and the Immune System

The relationship between bacteria and the human immune system can be a little complicated. The human body contains immune cells known as natural killer cells, which help to fight off everything from bacterial infections and viruses, to malignant tumors. At the dawn of the 20th century, a surgeon named William Coley realized that certain types of bacteria had the potential to interfere with a tumor’s ability to fight off the body’s immune activity, and used extracts from strains of bacteria to effectively treat patients suffering from cancer.

Oral Pathogens and Cancer

In order to get a better understanding of the relationship between bacteria and tumors, researchers from the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine launched a study to examine how Fusobacterium nucleatum, an oral pathogen linked to periodontal disease and also found in tumors in the colon, affected the tumors and the natural killer cells’ ability to fight them. What they found is that the bacteria in this case helped to provide the cancer cells certain immunity from the natural killer cells. Specifically, a bacterial protein (Fap2) binds to a receptor in the immune cells (TIGIT), creating the mechanism that allows the tumors to fight off the immune cells.

While more research is needed, the authors of the study hope to study how disrupting the interaction between the receptors could affect the interaction, and whether shutting off the Fap2 protein could help to design a new method to target tumors with cancer treatments in the future.

While the links between periodontal disease and the onset of more serious illnesses need to be studied further, there is no question that taking small steps like flossing daily and keeping up with professional care are the best options to avoid gum disease and potential complications in the future.

Expert Periodontists in Los Angeles

Maintaining healthy gums is an important step in maintaining overall health and wellness. Periodontal disease is most treatable when caught in the early stages. Contact board certified periodontists Dr. Alexandre-Amir Aalam and Dr. Alina Krivitsky at the Center for Advanced Periodontal and Implant Therapy today at (310) 299-8329, or request an appointment online.

Next, read more about L.A. Periodontists Share RejuvaGum Lift™ Receding Gums Treatment Animation