Blood mold can help doctors detect cancers as experts find fungi living in cancer cells
- Experts have found fungi, which include mushrooms, live in cancer cells
- If traces of mold can be detected in blood, cancer can be found early
- Prof Ravid Straussman said the discovery is a ‘new and emerging hallmark of cancer’
Doctors could one day detect aggressive forms of cancer using a test that looks for mold spores in the blood.
A group of international experts has found that fungi – organisms that include yeast, molds and fungi – live inside cancer cells.
Since traces of them can be detected in blood, experts believe the discovery could eventually help doctors detect cancers at their earliest stages.
Research suggested that specific fungi are attracted to certain types of cancer. For example, one type of fungus appeared to be common in breast cancer tumors, which have low survival rates. Another was found to often live in aggressive skin cancers.
When the fungi were discovered in patients’ blood, the researchers say a test could be used to detect serious disease before scans pick it up.
If traces of fungi can be detected in blood, experts believe the discovery could eventually help doctors detect cancer in its earliest stages
Specific fungi were found to be more prevalent in breast tumors in older patients than in younger ones
Fungi are a type of organism defined 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 to see with the human eye.
They are found in many of the body’s tissues, especially in the gut, mouth and skin. Studies suggest that most people will have at least 100 types of fungi living in their mouths alone. But until now it has been unknown whether fungi also live in tumors.
In the latest study, scientists analyzed more than 17,000 tissue and blood samples from patients with 35 types of cancer and found a host of fungi living inside the cancer cells.
Specific fungi were found to be more prevalent in breast tumors in older patients than in 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 make us rethink almost everything that we know. about the disease.’
However, the authors add that the studies only suggest a link between mushroom species and certain forms of cancer. They cannot draw conclusions about whether types of fungi are responsible for causing the disease to become more aggressive.