Fungi are frequently found in human malignancies and one day may be utilised to detect, identify, and potentially treat cancer.
That’s according to a group of international researchers who revealed what they called the first-ever “pan-cancer mycobiome atlas” that details the connections between 35 different forms of cancer and fungi. The results were made public in the journal Cell.
Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine jointly led the study. They noted that little is known about the function of mycobiota, or fungal microorganisms, a subset of the human microbiome, in human cancers.
A news release stated that prior research has long concentrated on the relationship between specific microorganisms and cancer.
Link between fungus and cancer in the recent study
Environmental fungi, such as yeasts and mould, which typically pose no risk to most healthy people, and commensal fungi, which live on or inside the human body and may be either harmless or beneficial, such as enhancing gut health, or they may contribute to disease, such as yeast infections or liver disease. Additionally, fungi influence human immunity, for better or worse, which is important for immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients.
In 17,401 patient tissue, blood, and plasma samples from 35 different cancer types across four separate cohorts, the current study describes the cancer mycobiome—fungi associated with cancers. Numerous significant human cancers had low levels of fungal DNA and cells, and the community compositions varied depending on the kind of malignancy.
Are fungus really a source of cancer?
Studies that examined fungal communities with matched bacteriomes and immunomes—the genes and proteins that make up the immune system—found that their connections were frequently “permissive” rather than competitive.
In breast cancer tumours of patients older than 50 years, one species of fungal was discovered to be enriched, but another species was especially plentiful in lung cancer samples.
According to the study, there are connections between particular fungus and factors like age, tumour subtypes, smoking status, immunotherapy response, and survival rates. It is unclear if the fungus are merely correlated or causally linked.
Separate research that was published in the same issue of the journal Cell revealed the presence of fungi in lung and gastrointestinal cancers.
The corresponding author of that work is Anders B. Dohlman, a doctorate candidate in biomedical engineering at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
For instance, Blastomyces was discovered to be present in tumour tissues in lung malignancies, according to the study’s authors. High levels of Candida were found in stomach tumours, and in colon cancers, the presence of Candida aided in the prognosis of disease progression.
The findings of this study show that mycobiota may play a role in the emergence of human gastrointestinal cancer and that “tumor-associated fungus DNA may serve as diagnostic or prognostic biomarkers,” according to the researchers.
About The Human Pathology Atlas
The Human Protein Atlas initiative has produced a Human Pathology Atlas to investigate the prognostic significance of each protein-coding gene in 17 different malignancies. This atlas serves as a stand-alone resource for cancer precision therapy by utilising transcriptomics and antibody-based profiling. The outcomes show the effectiveness of sizable systems biology initiatives that utilise freely accessible resources.
Cancer patients are shown to have extensive metabolic heterogeneity using genome-scale metabolic models, underscoring the necessity for accurate and individualised medicine for cancer treatment. This resource, which has more than 900,000 Kaplan-Meier plots, paves the path for additional in-depth studies including systems-level analyses of cancer by allowing examination of the specific genes influencing clinical outcome for various malignancies.