Recent technological advances have made it possible to measure microbial content within body sites without the need for culturing the agent. Through several metabolic, detoxification, and immunologic pathways, the human microbiota is essential for human health and hypothesized to be an important determinant of various diseases, including cancer. Most work to date in this area has been descriptive, laboratory-based, and limited by small sample sizes. Epidemiological studies of the relationship between microbial diversity and cancer risk are just now being explored.
To prepare for such studies, DCEG investigators have been accumulating expertise and have embarked on a series of pilot studies to develop tools and to test particular hypotheses that will ultimately provide understanding of how cancer risk is affected by perturbations of the microbiota and its functions. These include: