Long-term follow-up of colorectal cancer screening attendees identifies differences in Phascolarctobacterium spp. using 16S rRNA and metagenome sequencing

Front Oncol. 2023 Apr 27;13:1183039. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1183039. eCollection 2023.


Background: The microbiome has been implicated in the initiation and progression of colorectal cancer (CRC) in cross-sectional studies. However, there is a lack of studies using prospectively collected samples.

Methods: From the Norwegian Colorectal Cancer Prevention (NORCCAP) trial, we analyzed 144 archived fecal samples from participants who were diagnosed with CRC or high-risk adenoma (HRA) at screening and from participants who remained cancer-free during 17 years of follow-up. We performed 16S rRNA sequencing of all the samples and metagenome sequencing on a subset of 47 samples. Differences in taxonomy and gene content between outcome groups were assessed for alpha and beta diversity and differential abundance.

Results: Diversity and composition analyses showed no significant differences between CRC, HRA, and healthy controls. Phascolarctobacterium succinatutens was more abundant in CRC compared with healthy controls in both the 16S and metagenome data. The abundance of Bifidobacterium and Lachnospiraceae spp. was associated with time to CRC diagnosis.

Conclusion: Using a longitudinal study design, we identified three taxa as being potentially associated with CRC. These should be the focus of further studies of microbial changes occurring prior to CRC diagnosis.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; archived fecal samples; colorectal cancer screening; long term follow-up; metagenome; microbiome; sequencing.

Grant support

Data analyses and the writing of this manuscript are part of the Ph.D. work of CBJ, which is funded by the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority (project number 2020056). The project was also funded by the Norwegian Cancer Society (project number 190179 and 198048). Lab work is funded by the Cancer Registry of Norway funds.