Could microbiomes solve breast cancer?

By Grace Materne

            Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in the United States, making it the second most common form of cancer in women. Due to the widespread effects of breast cancer, continuous research seeks to understand the cause, development and treatment of the disease. Researchers are currently investigating whether microbiomes (bacteria) found in breast tissue could be causing breast cancer. Microbiomes are found throughout the body in distant tissues such as the gut; therefore, comparing the microbiomes in the gut to those found in breast tissue can help identify irregular bacteria that are potentially cancerous. Early discovery of these irregular microbiomes could help catch the primary stages of breast cancer, allowing for preventative treatment to decrease the severity of the disease.

            Current studies seek to understand these bacteria imbalances and the role they play in breast cancer. One study in particular published in Oncotarget, compared the bacterial composition of breast tissue samples from patients with invasive carcinoma to bacteria found in the patients’ urine samples. The researchers found increased levels of gram-positive bacteria in the urine; this bacterial imbalance in distant tissues could be due to cancerous bacteria in breast tissue. Additional studies demonstrate that loaded submicroscopic particles called nanoparticles that target pro-cancer bacteria can be used to deliver antibiotics to the irregular microbiomes in the breast tissue. Breast cancer continues to devastate hundreds of thousands of women each year; however, emerging research that links irregular microbiomes in body tissues to cancerous microbiomes in breast tissue offers promising methods for early detection and treatment of breast cancer.


Cleveland Clinic. "Breast cancer linked to bacterial imbalances: Study compares bacterial composition in healthy vs. cancerous breast tissue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2017. <>.