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Diet & Health : Cancer Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Infectious Agent May Impact Lung Cancer
By News Release
Feb 23, 2009 - 10:04:38 PM

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A previously unknown effect of an infectious agent relevant to the prevention and/or treatment of lung cancer has been discovered by a UMDNJ research team led by Melissa Rogers, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School.

The infectious agent, mycoplasma bacterium, induces the synthesis of an important growth factor, BMP2, in lung cells. After enough time, mycoplasma can convert normal lung cells into cells that form tumors. BMP2 may accelerate this process. With the help of a two-year grant for $120,000 from the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research and a Team Science Initiative Grant from UMDNJ, Dr. Rogers and her collaborator, Dr. John Langenfeld of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, are working to understand the relationship between bacterial infection and BMP2 in lung tumors.

The relevance of this study stems from the fact that mycoplasma is a curable bacteria. “If we think mycoplasma is promoting tumors, especially in lung cancer, then we should be curing it.” said Rogers. “Even though doctors don’t normally look at mycoplasma as a pathogen, it may be a tumor promoter.

“Our linkage of mycoplasma infection to BMP2 induction suggests that antimycoplasma treatment may benefit lung cancer patients,” said Rogers. “Furthermore, understanding how BMP2, a potent regulator of cell behavior is regulated in normal and transformed lung cells may identify novel chemotherapy approaches.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. Research indicates more people will die from lung cancer than breast, colon, and prostate cancer combined.

Rogers believes this study will lay the groundwork for examining whether high risk patients should be screened and treated for mycoplasma infections to prevent lung cancer and whether lung cancer patients should be treated with antibiotics to eradicate mycoplasma infection.

The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,600 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.

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