The Role of Bacterial Protein in Cancer

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The Role of Bacterial Protein in Cancer

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases and even though there are modern technologies in healthcare today, there is no cure for cancer / Photo by: Katarzyna Białasiewicz via 123rf


Cancer is a deadly disease that affects many people. Despite the modernization in medicine and science, there is no definite cure for cancer. The common characteristic of cancer is that it has uncontrolled cell growth that causes multiple organ failure and eventually, death. 

Cancer symptoms are very variable, depending on the extent and the location of the tumor growth. 


Cancer Pathology

There are many classifications of cancer. It is based on the site where it started and the tumor type as well. It is also important to predict the cancer stage to determine early the prognosis of a cancer patient.

There are many classifications of cancer depending on the tumor type and the site where the cancer is in and it is important to predict the cancer stage to know the prognosis of the patient / Photo by: Nonwarit Pruetisirirot via 123rf


Cancer-Causing Bacterial Protein

The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has discovered that the bacteria mycoplasma prevents the cell from repairing damaged DNA, an origin of cancer. 

There were only a few traces of mycoplasma DNA seen on the fully grown tumor, which suggests that the bacterial protein is no longer needed once the cancer cells have already formed. 

Dr. Robert Gallo, the Homer and Martha Gudelsky distinguished professor in medicine and co-founder and director of the institute, said that about 20% of cancers are thought to be caused by infection and most by viruses.

Mycoplasmas are associated with cancers, especially those who have HIV. The research aimed to explain how bacterial infection can be a precursor to cancer. What they noticed is that not all infection had to persist and the protein does not have to be in all cancer cells. The study also looked at how infections caused by bacteria can interfere with cancer drugs. 

To prove that mycoplasma contributes to cancer, such as lymphoma, researchers made use of mice that are already immuno-compromised. They compared results: non-infected immune-compromised mice had lymphoma while mycoplasma-injected immune-compromised mice did not develop lymphoma right away.

Dr. Davide Zella, Ph.D. and assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the same institute, said that they focused on a protein called DnaK. “This protein acts as a chaperone for other proteins to protect them from damage. However, infection reduces the activity of the important proteins in charge of DNA repair and anti-cancer such as p53. Thus, cells infected with mycoplasma would not be able to properly repair damaged DNA, thus, potentially increasing the risk for cancer development, " Dr. Zella added. 

Cancer-Detecting Bacteria

Scientists and researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas at Austin have made use of the bacteria Escherichia coli to help detect human proteins that can cause damage to the DNA that may in turn trigger cells to become cancer cells. This innovative approach involves engineering bacteria to over-express each of the 4,000 E. coli genes and identifies the biological mechanisms that contribute to the damage to DNA caused by too much production of protein. According to the researchers, the results can help pave the way for new strategies of handling human cancer therapy and to pre-determine individuals who are at risk for cancer. 

Susan M. Rosenberg, Ph.D., Ben F. Love chair in cancer research and professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor and the author of the paper Cell said that DNA damage is caused by overproduction of protein. This is a common cellular event. Their study aimed to detect the overproduced proteins that cause DNA damage that may lead to cancer. 

DNA Damage

When a DNA gets damaged, it can lead to mutations that result in the development of cancer and other genetic diseases. This can also affect evolution. Rosenberg said, “Cancer is a disease of mutations. A normal cell that has accumulated several mutations in particular genes becomes likely to turn into a cancer cell.”

DNA damage can also come from environmental factors, such as second-hand smoke, Sun damage, and the likes. Researchers have noted that “the identities and functions of endogenous DNA damage-promoting proteins in any organism are poorly understood.”

Rosenberg and team made use of a novel approach where E. coli was used to look for bacterial proteins that cause DNA damage when overproduced. Based on the team researching this, “Given DNA biology conservation across life, proteins that promote spontaneous DNA damage may be conserved, and their identification could potentially inform strategies for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, including cancer, aging, and pathogen evolution."

It is suggested that DNA damage can be a marker for predicting cancer. If it is indeed possible to study how damage to DNA and mutation can lead to cancer, many lives could be saved. 

“This study is opening up new avenues for discoveries of novel mechanisms that protect our genomes and how their dysfunction can alter the integrity of our DNA and cause cancer,” said Rosenberg.

Cancer cells are different from normal cells. While not yet fully developed, there are various things done in order to finish their development. General cancer characteristics have been already identified. Modern technology has taught us that cancer can be determined but still, there is no known cure. 

When the DNA is damaged, it can cause mutations that can form cancer and other genetic diseases / Photo by: Sergey Nivens via 123rf