Bacteria and cancer: cause, coincidence or cure? A review

J Transl Med. 2006 Mar 28;4:14. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-4-14.


Research has found that certain bacteria are associated with human cancers. Their role, however, is still unclear. Convincing evidence links some species to carcinogenesis while others appear promising in the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of cancers. The complex relationship between bacteria and humans is demonstrated by Helicobacter pylori and Salmonella typhi infections. Research has shown that H. pylori can cause gastric cancer or MALT lymphoma in some individuals. In contrast, exposure to H. pylori appears to reduce the risk of esophageal cancer in others. Salmonella typhi infection has been associated with the development of gallbladder cancer; however S. typhi is a promising carrier of therapeutic agents for melanoma, colon and bladder cancers. Thus bacterial species and their roles in particular cancers appear to differ among different individuals. Many species, however, share an important characteristic: highly site-specific colonization. This critical factor may lead to the development of non-invasive diagnostic tests, innovative treatments and cancer vaccines.