Human Colon Cancer-Derived Clostridioides difficile Strains Drive Colonic Tumorigenesis in Mice

Cancer Discov. 2022 Aug 5;12(8):1873-1885. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-1273.


Defining the complex role of the microbiome in colorectal cancer and the discovery of novel, protumorigenic microbes are areas of active investigation. In the present study, culturing and reassociation experiments revealed that toxigenic strains of Clostridioides difficile drove the tumorigenic phenotype of a subset of colorectal cancer patient-derived mucosal slurries in germ-free ApcMin/+ mice. Tumorigenesis was dependent on the C. difficile toxin TcdB and was associated with induction of Wnt signaling, reactive oxygen species, and protumorigenic mucosal immune responses marked by the infiltration of activated myeloid cells and IL17-producing lymphoid and innate lymphoid cell subsets. These findings suggest that chronic colonization with toxigenic C. difficile is a potential driver of colorectal cancer in patients.

Significance: Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer and cancer-related deaths worldwide, with a multifactorial etiology that likely includes procarcinogenic bacteria. Using human colon cancer specimens, culturing, and murine models, we demonstrate that chronic infection with the enteric pathogen C. difficile is a previously unrecognized contributor to colonic tumorigenesis. See related commentary by Jain and Dudeja, p. 1838. This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1825.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins* / genetics
  • Bacterial Toxins* / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Clostridioides
  • Clostridioides difficile*
  • Colonic Neoplasms*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Mice


  • Bacterial Toxins