Looking Inside the Mouth for Pancreatic Cancer Risk


By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – More than 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, and because the disease is often not diagnosed until an advanced stage, less than 10 percent of those diagnosed will still be alive in five years.

In a glimmer of good news, researchers may have a new tool for early detection of the disease. A study presented at the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research meeting found that people with two types of periodontal disease-causing oral bacteria have a higher prevalence of pancreatic cancer than those who did not have the gum disease, according to a Fox News article on the result.

The two types of periodontal disease bacteria—with the tongue-twisting names Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcominans—were analyzed in saliva samples from 361 individuals who developed pancreatic cancer and 371 matched healthy individuals. A team of researchers from New York University Langone Medical Center sequenced the DNA that was extracted from the saliva, and variances in age, race, sex, smoking status, alcohol use, body mass index and diabetes were controlled.

Participants with P. gingivalis had a 59 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer than those without it; the association with the other bacteria species had at least a 50 percent elevated risk, said Fox News. These findings support the study’s hypothesis showing that people who have developed pancreatic cancer tended to have poor oral health, Fox News reported; this study was the first to determine that the bacteria’s presence actually precedes the cancer diagnosis. Researchers pointed out the finding doesn’t mean the bacteria cause the cancer; rather, having the bacteria may increase the likelihood of inflammation, known to be a precursor for developing cancer, according to Fox News.

“While a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer continues to be an extremely serious diagnosis, this finding suggests a possible new tool for giving doctors a heads-up that a patient might be at risk,” says Brad Thompson, CEO of Oncolytics Biotech Inc. “Additionally, new approaches for treating those with the disease may come from the world of oncolytic viral therapy.”

Oncolytics recently reported updated data from a Phase II study of its lead product, REOLYSIN®, a proprietary formulation of the human reovirus, in pancreatic cancer, in combination with other cancer drugs. In the study, there was a statistically significant higher percentage of patients surviving two years in the test arm versus the control arm (i.e. a benefit in longer-term overall survival). Based on the result, the company is currently enrolling pancreatic cancer patients in a study incorporating REOLYSIN® with a checkpoint inhibitor (i.e. a drug that overcomes one of cancer’s main defenses against an immune system attack) to determine the effect of the immune system on patient outcomes.

Anyone with concerns about pancreatic cancer should ask their doctor for additional information about next steps.

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