Gum disease provides a way for oral bacteria to find their way to other parts of the body. According to research done by Virginia tech, this bacteria may facilitate the spread of colon cancer and other types of cancer to other parts of the body.

The bacteria of interest in the study was Fusobacterium nucleatum, which is common in the mouth and has been found to invade tumors in the colon. Daniel Slade, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Biochemistry explains the importance of the discovery that this type of bacteria may responsible for the spread of cancer in the body: “This is vital information because 90% of cancer-related deaths result from nonprimary tumors or sites that have metastasized to somewhere else in the body.”

In a 2017 study performed on mice, researchers found their first evidence that F nucleatum could be directly responsible for causes cancer in the colon to spread to the liver.

The research team has made examining the role this bacteria plays in the spread of cancer a focus on their treatment. Understanding the process by which this works can help medical experts find a way to inhibit the spread of cancer from one organ to another.

The team’s latest study, “Fusobacterium Nucleatum Host-Cell Binding and Invasion Induces IL-8 and CXCL1 Secretion That Drives Colorectal Cancer Cell Migration” was published in Science Signaling.

While promising for future research into the treatment of cancer, these findings also further highlight the importance of treating gum disease, in order to minimize the presence of oral bacteria in the rest of the body.