Case Western Reserve University researchers discovered how byproducts from two bacteria prevalent in gum disease incite the growth of deadly Kaposi sarcoma-related (KS) lesions and tumors in the mouth.
The finding, published in February issue of The Journal of Virology, could lead to early saliva testing for the bacteria, which, if found, could be treated and monitored for signs of cancer before it develops into a malignancy, researchers said.
"These new findings provide one of the first looks at how the periodontal bacteria create a unique microenvironment in the oral cavity that contributes to the development of KS," said Fengchun Ye, the study's lead investigator from Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine's Department of Biological Sciences.
KS is a cancer that develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels. It usually appears as tumors on the skin or mucosal surfaces such as inside the mouth, according to the American Cancer Society. KS can cause serious problems or even become life threatening when the lesions are in the lungs, liver or digestive tract.
The Journal of Virology study focused on how two types of bacteria, which are associated with gum disease, contribute to cancer formation.
Dr. Ye said high levels of these bacteria are found in the saliva of people with periodontal disease. KS impacts a significant number of people with HIV, whose immune systems lack the ability to fight off infections.
"The most important thing to come out of this study is that we believe periodontal disease is a risk factor for Kaposi sarcoma tumor in HIV patients," Dr. Ye said.
The researchers recruited 21 patients, dividing them into two groups. All participants were given standard gum-disease tests.
The first group of 11 participants had an average age of 50 and had severe chronic gum disease. The second group of 10 participants, whose average age was about 26, had healthy gums, practiced good oral health and showed no signs of bleeding or tooth loss from periodontal disease.
The researchers were interested in both bacteria's byproducts of small fatty acids. After initially testing the byproducts, the researchers suspected that the fatty acids were involved in replicating Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus. After introducing the fatty acids to the KSHV virus in a petri dish, the researchers saw that the fatty acids allowed the virus to multiply while also stopping the production of molecules in the body's immune system that stops the growth of KSHV.
The research was supported by a career development grant at Center for AIDS Research at Case Western Reserve University and a National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research grant.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.