Discovery Will Aid Gut-Microbiome Research Efforts

The collaboration between Melanie Rutkowski, PhD, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology and Chemistry professor Marcos Pires, PhD, examines novel methods to fluorescently ’tag’ and visualize gut commensal bacteria. This work will pave the way towards understanding microbiota interactions with host immune cells and tumor tissue, leading to new insights about the connections between food, gut microbiome and breast cancer.

“There is a lot of interest now in the oncobiome, a collection of microorganisms within tumors that have been shown to affect cancer outcomes and therapy response,” she added. “We’d like to use this technology to understand how the microorganisms arrive into the tumors and to define how the cells they’re interacting with are functionally affected. These questions remain unanswered because until now, there has not been a good way to visualize microbial translocation into tumors in real time. Ultimately, I’m really excited about the potential of the work Marcos is doing to understand the microbiome.”

“The collaboration between Drs. Pires and Rutkowski underscores the value of bringing together investigators from disparate fields to address important questions about health and disease,” said Amy Bouton, interim chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology.

“By using the tools developed by Dr. Pires, Dr. Rutkowski is poised to visualize direct interactions between bacteria present within the microbiome and cells within and surrounding tumor tissues,” Bouton said. “These studies will lead to important discoveries on how the microbiota can influence tumor growth and progression and could help advance the efforts of other researchers studying a variety of devastating diseases.” [more]