BEIJING, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese researchers have identified gut microbiota as a new biomarker of liver cancer.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. There are about 460,000 new cases reported annually in China.
Due to the absence of specific symptoms in early stages and the lack of diagnostic markers, most patients with HCC are often diagnosed in an advanced stage. Therefore, finding diagnostic markers for early HCC is necessary to treat the disease before it is too late.
Researchers from School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, and the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University have focused on the different gut microbial diversity in healthy people and patients.
Human gut microbiota has been considered the most important micro-ecosystem living with the body, containing tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1,000 species of bacteria with more than 3 million genes. Gut microbiota can help the body digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.
Researchers collected 486 fecal samples from across the country. They found microbial diversity in patients with cirrhosis was significantly lower than that in healthy people, but it was increased when cirrhosis developed into cancer.
About 12 bacteria genera decreased and six increased in patients with early cancer compared with healthy people.
The research provides a new solution for the early diagnosis of liver cancer and was recently published in the medical journal Gut.
According to researchers, more data and further studies are needed to confirm the validity and reliability of the model.