In a first, researchers from University of Granada, Spain, have successfully created magnetic bacteria that could be added to foodstuff, which after ingestion would help diagnose digestive tract diseases such as stomach cancer. It is an important finding because here the artificial magnetic bacteria turn the food into a natural drug to screen and even destroy stomach cancer and other gastrointestinal diseases.
The researchers, from the Department of Inorganic Chemistry and the Institute of Biotechnology, in collaboration with BIOSEARCH SA, who patented the technology, got the idea from a natural bacteria called magnetotactic bacteria. These species produce internal magnets which act like an internal compass that help them to orient themselves. Through this alignment the bacteria reach the regions of optimal oxygen concentration.
AdvertisementThe research is still in the experimental stage, but the researchers believe these probiotic magnetic bacteria can be used -
• In MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to facilitate diagnosis of the disease
• In heating cancer cells through magnetic hypothermia to treat the disease
• As an edible iron supplement
Stomach cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world with about one million new cases being reported every year globally. Stomach cancer is of many types, the most common being adenocarcinoma or the cancer of the inner lining of the stomach that contains glands secreting mucus and gastric juices.
The stomach wall has five layers and the innermost layer is called the mucosa. This is where most stomach cancers start. The stage of the cancer is actually determined by the spread of the cancer from the mucosa to the other layers of the stomach.
Stomach cancers usually develop slowly over many years and you may not experience any symptoms in the early stages. Over time the cancer spreads to the nearby organs. It may also spread to the lymph vessels and lymph nodes. As the cancer advances, it can spread to the blood, bones and other parts of the body. So, what causes stomach cancer?
Causes of Stomach Cancer
Researchers are still trying to find the causes of stomach cancer. But the following are now the accepted causes of stomach cancer -
1. Helicobacter pylori infection: H. pylori is a spiral bacterium that grows in the inner mucus lining of the stomach. This bacterium interferes with the activity of the immune cells of our body, making them ineffective in eliminating the bacteria. This causes an autoimmune reaction in which the lining of the stomach is attacked by the immune cells of the body resulting in cancer. Although H. pylori does not always cause cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified it as a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) because it has been found to be an important cause of stomach cancer and gastric lymphoma.
2. Epstein-Barr virus has also been linked to stomach cancer in a number of studies. Researchers have found that almost 10 percent of stomach cancers develop because of this virus.
3. Diet plays a major role in the development of stomach cancer. Studies have shown that pickled food, spicy food, excess consumption of chilly, dried salted fish, and soda can cause gastric cancer. Similarly, excess salt intake is also a risk factor because salt can damage the stomach mucosa (inner lining).
4. Tobacco smoking and tobacco chewing, both, increase the risk of stomach cancer.
Treatment of Stomach Cancer
Treatment of stomach cancer depends on the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer.
Since early stages of cancer are limited to the inner lining of the stomach, it is treated by surgery alone. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is not required.
Later stages of the cancer require surgery as well as chemo or radiotherapy since the other linings of the stomach are also involved. Chemotherapy with or without radiation is given before the surgery to shrink the cancer and make it easier for the surgeons to remove it.
Advanced stages of stomach cancer may require removal of part or all of the stomach along with nearby lymph nodes if necessary. Sometimes chemotherapy or chemoradiation is given after the surgery, but only if the patient can tolerate it.
Cure for stage IV stomach cancer is usually not possible. But treatment helps to relieve symptoms. Combinations of chemo drugs or targeted therapy is used in some cases.
India has a high prevalence of H. pylori, so the threat of stomach cancer is high. Similarly, faulty diet and high use of tobacco add to the burden. In view of this, medical community in India feel the need for suitable screening tests for stomach cancer. This study, thus, may prove to be very useful in diagnosing and treating the cancer.