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Colorectal cancers comprise a complex mixture of malignant cells, nontransformed cells, and microorganisms. Fusobacterium nucleatum is among the most prevalent bacterial species in colorectal cancer tissues. Here we show that colonization of human colorectal cancers with Fusobacterium and its associated microbiome-including Bacteroides, Selenomonas, and Prevotella species-is maintained in distal metastases, demonstrating microbiome stability between paired primary and metastatic tumors. In situ hybridization analysis revealed that Fusobacterium is predominantly associated with cancer cells in the metastatic lesions. Mouse xenografts of human primary colorectal adenocarcinomas were found to retain viable Fusobacterium and its associated microbiome through successive passages. Treatment of mice bearing a colon cancer xenograft with the antibiotic metronidazole reduced Fusobacterium load, cancer cell proliferation, and overall tumor growth. These observations argue for further investigation of antimicrobial interventions as a potential treatment for patients with Fusobacterium-associated colorectal cancer.

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Three months ago, I wrote about a report that some kinds of pancreatic cancer seem to be associated with particular infections, and wondered “How many similar stories are out there that we don’t know about yet?” Well, that didn’t take...