The bacteria that cause periodontitis may also play a part in the onset of pancreatic cancer, according to new research coming out of Scandinavia.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University Hospital, Finland, and the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden have been investigating the role of bacteria causing periodontitis in the development of oral and certain other cancers, as well as the link between periodontitis and cancer mortality on the population level.
Their latest study, published last month in the British Journal of Cancer, has for the first time proved the existence of a mechanism on the molecular level through which the bacteria associated with periodontitis, Treponema denticola (Td), may also have an effect on the onset of cancer.
The team found that the primary virulence factor of the Td bacteria, the Td-CTLP proteinase (an enzyme), also occurs in malignant tumours of the gastrointestinal tract, for example, in pancreatic cancer.
They also found that the CTLP enzyme has the ability to activate the enzymes that cancer cells use to invade healthy tissue. At the same time, CTLP also diminishes the effectiveness of the immune system by, for example, inactivating molecules known as enzyme inhibitors.
In another study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, the team found that on the population level, periodontitis is clearly linked with cancer—especially pancreatic cancer— mortality. Some 70,000 Finns took part in this 10-year follow-up study.
“These studies have demonstrated for the first time that the virulence factors of the central pathogenic bacteria underlying gum disease are able to spread from the mouth to other parts of the body—most likely in conjunction with the bacteria—and take part in central mechanisms of tissue destruction related to cancer,” research leader Professor Timo Sorsa said.