Dr. Queen (USA winner 2020): Microbiota & colorectal cancer
To celebrate #WorldMicrobiomeDay, the Biocodex Microbiota Institute is handing the floor to national grant winners.
About this article
Dr. Jessica Queen
As a physician-scientist, her goal is to combine her clinical acumen and research endeavors to improve patient health as it pertains to enteric pathogens and commensal organisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Using patient samples and animal models, she studies how the gut microbiota contributes to the development of colon cancer, and alters or predicts patient responses to cancer-directed therapies.
What has the national grant allowed to discover in your microbiota research area?
My project involves isolating and characterizing Fusobacterium strains from colon cancer biopsies. It’s a truly translational project that appeals to me as a physician scientist because it allows me to work directly with patient samples to investigate an important observation that the oral microbe Fusobacterium nucleatum is enriched in the microbiome of many colon cancer patients. I had some exciting pilot data but needed additional research funds and technical support to expand the project. The grant has allowed us to complete 16S rRNA sequencing of our colon cancer surgical biopsy cohort, giving us a broad view of the bacterial composition of the tumor microbiome. We are now analyzing these data in the context of specific patient characteristics (e.g. tumor stage, tumor location, patient demographics). In parallel, we are isolating individual Fusobacterium strains and performing whole genome sequencing and testing these strains in our mouse models, providing mechanistic data about how these organisms may contribute to disease in the colon. Our preliminary data thus far have highlighted the genomic diversity of F. nucleatum and strain-specific phenotypes in mouse models of CRC (these data recently described in mBio1), and we have some exciting preliminary data demonstrating a potential novel pro-carcinogenic effect of other Fusobacterium species.2
What are the consequences for the patient?
Our in-depth analysis of this CRC cohort will provide higher resolution data about the tumor microbiome, because we are combining sequencing, culture, and in vivo models to investigate commensal organisms to the subspecies and strain level in a way that has not previously been done for Fusobacterium nucleatum. Ultimately, our hope is that a deeper understanding of the cancer-associated microbiota will provide opportunities for development of novel preventative and therapeutic interventions, and to allow a more personalized medicine approach to treatment.
Do you have a tip for taking care of our microbiota?
I think one of the most important things we can do both individually and globally is to limit unnecessary antibiotic exposures, which can disrupt our healthy gut microbiota. As an infectious diseases physician, I put a lot of emphasis on antibiotic stewardship, which has major implications for both the development of antibiotic resistant organisms and the long-term consequences of microbiota dysbiosis.