Fusobacterium nucleatum and Clinicopathologic Features of Colorectal Cancer: Results From the ColoCare Study

Published:February 27, 2021DOI:



      Fusobacterium nucleatum (Fn), a bacterium associated with a wide spectrum of infections, has emerged as a key microbe in colorectal carcinogenesis. However, the underlying mechanisms and clinical relevance of Fn in colorectal cancer (CRC) remain incompletely understood.

      Patients and Methods

      We examined associations between Fn abundance and clinicopathologic characteristics among 105 treatment-naïve CRC patients enrolled in the international, prospective ColoCare Study. Electronic medical charts, including pathological reports, were reviewed to document clinicopathologic features. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to amplify/detect Fn DNA in preoperative fecal samples. Multinomial logistic regression was used to analyze associations between Fn abundance and patient sex, age, tumor stage, grade, site, microsatellite instability, body mass index (BMI), alcohol consumption, and smoking history. Cox proportional hazards models were used to investigate associations of Fn abundance with overall survival in adjusted models.


      Compared to patients with undetectable or low Fn abundance, patients with high Fn abundance (n = 22) were 3-fold more likely to be diagnosed with rectal versus colon cancer (odds ratio [OR] = 3.01; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.06-8.57; P = .04) after adjustment for patient sex, age, BMI, and study site. Patients with high Fn abundance also had a 5-fold increased risk of being diagnosed with rectal cancer versus right-sided colon cancer (OR = 5.32; 95% CI, 1.23-22.98; P = .03). There was no statistically significant association between Fn abundance and overall survival.


      Our findings suggest that Fn abundance in fecal samples collected prior to surgery varies by tumor site among treatment-naïve CRC patients. Overall, fecal Fn abundance may have diagnostic and prognostic significance in the clinical management of CRC.


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