International cooperation of biobanks allowed to carry out a large-scale study of the microbiome in colorectal cancer

Professor Zisis Kozlakidis,  the head of the biobank of the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (IARC), who served as President of ISBER in 2017-2018, co-authored an article published this month in the prestigious journal “Nature Microbiology”. The article is entitled “Multi-kingdom microbiota analyzes identify bacterial-fungal interactions and biomarkers of colorectal cancer across cohorts” and is devoted to the results of a large-scale international study of the colon microbiome in patients with colorectal cancer in comparison with healthy controls: . The leaders of the project were a group of researchers from China, but the study involved 1,368 colorectal cancer patients and healthy residents of 8 geographical regions, including China, Japan, Italy, the USA, Austria, France and Germany. Accordingly, an extensive group of scientists from these countries representing biobanks and research institutes became co-authors of the study.


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer – according to the latest WHO data, its frequency is 1.8 million cases per year, second only to lung cancer (2.09 million cases) and breast cancer (2.09 million cases). The number of deaths from colorectal cancer is estimated by WHO at 0.9 million per year. Therefore, the search for the factors of the development of malignant tumors of this localization is an important task for the entire international scientific community. One of the most interesting research targets in recent years has been the gut microbiota. It forms a microenvironment in which both normal and pathological local processes occur: including the formation of benign and malignant tumors of the colon and rectum. It is obvious that the involvement of populations from different regions in the project largely negates the contribution of such an important factor as diet, which strongly affects the composition of the microbiota. The object of many interesting studies, including this one, was the microbiome – that is, the set of genes of the microbiota, its “aggregate genome”.


The results of the international study provided valuable data on the association of the composition/spectrum of microbiota with colorectal cancer, forming an interesting and important list of potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets of this serious disease. At the same time, the success of the study was ensured by the cooperation of institutes and biobanks from Asia, Europe and North America.