Endometrial cancer: could the microbiome aid earlier diagnosis?

In a study published recently in Genome Medicine, researchers from Mayo Clinic (MN, USA) have uncovered a potential role for the uterine microbiome in the development of endometrial cancer which may aid earlier diagnosis of the disease.

In this study researchers obtained vaginal, cervical, fallopian, ovarian, peritoneal and urine samples from 31 women undergoing a hysterectomy. Of those, 17 women were diagnosed with endometrial cancer, ten women were diagnosed with a benign gynecologic condition and four women were diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia.

Lead author Marina Walther-Antonio (Mayo Clinic) commented: “We set out to discover whether there is a microbiome component in the malignancy of tumors and if its appearance in patients diagnosed with the disease is distinguishable from that of patients without malignancy.”

The team discovered that there is a structural shift in the microbiome of cancer and hyperplasia cases which is distinguishable from benign cases. They also highlighted several taxa that were significantly enriched in the endometrial cancer patient cohort. Of particular note was the simultaneous presence of Atopobium vaginae and Porphyromonas.

The presence of these bacteria in combination with a high vaginal pH was demonstrated to be statistically associated with the presence of endometrial cancer.

Walther-Antonio concluded: “These findings provide important insights into the etiology or manifestation of the disease with broad implications for biomarker development in the early detection of, and screening for, endometrial cancer.”

Based on their initially promising results, the team are planning to investigate the possibility of utilizing vaginal swabs in the detection of endometrial cancer as well as utilizing benign endometrial biopsy’s to identify patients who may go on to develop endometrial cancer.

Sources: Walther-António M, Chen J, Multinu F et al Potential contribution of the uterine microbiome in the development of endometrial cancer Genome Med. 8:122 DOI: 10.1186/s13073-016-0368-y (2016); www.newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-researchers-vaginal-microbes-point-toward-early-detection-and-screening-for-endometrial-cancer/