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Uterine microbiome is focus of Mayo Clinic research, shows possible role in endometrial cancer

Mayo Clinic researchers have conducted the first direct assessment uterine microbiome study. Their intent was to probe microbes directly within the uterine environment and examine how these microbes could influence cancer within the endometrial lining. Microbes in the uterine environment are suspected to play a role in the development of endometrial cancer, given the typical inflammatory profile in these cases.

“We set out to discover whether there is a microbiome component in the malignancy of tumors and if its appearance in patients diagnosed with the disease is distinguishable from that of patients without malignancy,” says Marina Walther-Antonio, Ph.D. (S ’15), Department of Surgery and lead author of the study, which was published in Genome Medicine.

According to Dr. Walther-Antonio, this discovery holds the promise of a critical advance in endometrial cancer prevention because of the modifiable nature of the microbiome.

Uterine microbiome study findings

As a result of the study, researchers now know that:

  • The uterine microbiome of women with endometrial cancer is different from the uterine microbiome of women without endometrial cancer.
  • The microbes present in the vaginal environment of women with endometrial cancer are also different from the microbes present in the vaginal environment of women without endometrial cancer.

The research team studied 31 Caucasian women having hysterectomy. Of those, 10 women were diagnosed with a benign gynecologic condition, four were diagnosed with endometrial hyperplasia and 17 were diagnosed with endometrial cancer. The authors report that the populations of microbes found throughout the reproductive tract are shifted in the presence of cancer and hyperplasia, and were distinct from the benign cases.

Uterine microbiome further research

The researchers are seeking an ethnically diverse patient population to investigate whether the results extend to other populations. Further investigation is needed into the role of the microbiome in the manifestation, cause and progression of endometrial cancer.

Researchers are investigating the possibility of using vaginal swabs as an early screening tool for endometrial cancer and using benign endometrial biopsies to identify patients who will develop endometrial cancer in the future.


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