The fungi that inhabit the body and their effect on human health have not received as much attention from scientists as bacteria. This situation could be about to change as a new study reveals that fungi that live in the gut appear to have a role in pancreatic cancer.
In a recent Nature paper, the researchers describe how they investigated gut fungi in mice and humans with pancreatic cancer.
The team found that certain species of fungus in the gut can enter the pancreatic duct, which is the tube that the pancreas uses to deliver digestive juices to the intestines.
The microorganisms reach the pancreas by traveling through the duct in the opposite direction to the digestive fluids.
The new study shows that when pancreatic cancer is present, the fungal populations of pancreatic tumors and the gut differ from those of healthy mice and humans.
The researchers also found that giving mice with the most common form of pancreatic cancer a strong antifungal drug could reduce their tumors by up to 40%.
"While past studies from our group have shown that bacteria travel from the gut to the pancreas," says co-senior study author Dr. George Miller, MD, of the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine in New York CIty, "our new study is the first to confirm that fungi, too, make that trip and that related fungal population changes promote tumor inception and growth."