Skin Bacteria Feeds Cancer Cells in Patients With Lymphoma

While bacteria in the skin is normally a good thing - it keeps the body safe from pathogens and promotes a healthy immune system - patients with lymphoma may find skin bacteria is their enemy.

New research from the University of Copenhagen found that the toxins from staphylococcus bacteria, or "staph," actually enables cancer cells to hijack healthy cells and spread disease in lymphoma patients.

"We have gained important insight into the processes that activate cancer cells and make them grow," said Professor Niels Ødum, from the University of Copenhagen. "Patients’ frequent bacteria infections might not be a mere side effect of the disease – on the contrary, toxins in the bacteria actually ‘benefit’ cancer cells."

Lymphoma and skin

Bacterial infections are more common in lymphoma patients, as the skin becomes fragile and susceptible to disease because of the cancer.

The current study reveals that skin bacteria in some patients with lymphoma actually causes cancer cells to change in the body's immune defense system, weakening its ability to fight off the very cells causing its demise.

In patients with skin lymphoma - a rare type of cancer - threatening bacteria could worsen a patient's condition more rapidly than normal. Therefore, researchers hope to identify which type of bacteria produce harmful, cancer-spreading toxins so they can properly treat at-risk patients with antibiotics.

Source: University of Copenhagen

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