Fungus in blood could help doctors spot cancer as experts find fungi that live in cancer cells
- Experts have discovered that fungi, including mushrooms, live in cancer cells
- If spores of fungal spores can be detected in blood, cancer can be found early
- Prof Ravid Straussman said discovery is a ‘new and emerging hallmark of cancer’
Doctors could one day detect aggressive cancers with a test that looks for fungal spores in the blood.
A group of international experts has discovered that fungi – organisms containing yeast, molds and mushrooms – live in cancer cells.
Since traces of it can be detected in the blood, experts believe the discovery could ultimately help doctors detect cancer at an early stage.
Research suggested that specific fungi are attracted to certain types of cancer. For example, one type of fungus was found to be common in breast cancer tumors with low survival rates. Another was found to often live in aggressive skin cancers.
Because the fungi were detected in patients’ blood, the scientists say a test could be used to detect serious illness before scans pick it up.
If fungal spores can be detected in the blood, experts believe the discovery could eventually help doctors detect cancer at an early stage
Specific fungi were found to be more common in the breast tumors of older patients than those of younger patients
Fungi are a type of organism determined by their ability to produce spores – microscopic particles that allow the fungus to spread and reproduce. Most fungi are microscopic, meaning they are too small for the human eye to see.
They occur in many tissues of the body, especially in the gut, mouth and skin. Studies suggest that most people have at least 100 forms of fungus in their mouths alone. But until now it was not known whether fungi also live in tumors.
In the latest study, scientists analyzed more than 17,000 tissue and blood samples from patients with 35 cancers and found a large number of fungi living in the cancer cells.
Specific fungi were found to be more common in the breast tumors of older patients than those of younger ones. And the fungi present in lung tumors or smokers were different from the types found in non-smokers.
Professor Ravid Straussman, of the Weizmann Institute of Science who co-authored the study, said the presence of fungi is a ‘new and emerging hallmark of cancer’, adding: ‘These findings should prompt us to to re-examine almost everything we know. about the disease.’
However, the authors add that the studies only suggest a link between fungal species and certain cancers. They cannot draw any conclusions as to whether types of fungi are responsible for the disease becoming more aggressive.