Food Science and Technology Department


Date of this Version



Published in final edited form as: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2019 February ; 28(2): 370–383.

doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-18-0542.


(c) 2018 American Association for Cancer Research.


Background: In mice, bacteria from the mouth can translocate to the pancreas and impact pancreatic cancer progression. In humans, oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease have been linked to pancreatic cancer risk. It is not known if DNA bacterial profiles in the pancreas and duodenum are similar within individuals.

Methods: Tissue samples were obtained from 50 subjects with pancreatic cancer or other conditions requiring foregut surgery at the Rhode Island Hospital (RIH), and from thirty-four organs obtained from the National Disease Research Interchange. 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on 189 tissue samples (pancreatic duct, duodenum, pancreas), 57 swabs (bile duct, jejunum, stomach), and 12 stool samples.

Results: Pancreatic tissue samples from both sources (RIH and NDRI) had diverse bacterial DNA, including taxa typically identified in the oral cavity. Bacterial DNA across different sites in the pancreas and duodenum were highly subject-specific in both cancer and non-cancer subjects. Presence of genus Lactobacillus was significantly higher in non-cancer subjects compared with cancer subjects and the relative abundance of Fusobacterium spp., previously associated with colorectal cancer, was higher in cancer subjects compared to non-cancer subjects.

Conclusions: Bacterial DNA profiles in the pancreas were similar to those in the duodenum tissue of the same subjects, regardless of disease state, suggesting that bacteria may be migrating from the gut into the pancreas. Whether bacteria play a causal role in human pancreatic cancer needs to be further examined.

Impact: Identifying bacterial taxa that differ in cancer patients can provide new leads on etiologically relevant bacteria.