Infectious agents are the third highest human cancer risk factor and may have a greater role in the origin and/or progression of cancers, and related pathogenesis. Thus, knowing the specific viruses and microbial agents associated with a cancer type may provide insights into cause, diagnosis and treatment. We utilized a pan-pathogen array technology to identify the microbial signatures associated with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). This technology detects low copy number and fragmented genomes extracted from formalin-fixed paraffin embedded archival tissues. The results, validated by PCR and sequencing, define a microbial signature present in TNBC tissue which was underrepresented in normal tissue. Hierarchical clustering analysis displayed two broad microbial signatures, one prevalent in bacteria and parasites and one prevalent in viruses. These signatures demonstrate a new paradigm in our understanding of the link between microorganisms and cancer, as causative or commensal in the tumor microenvironment and provide new diagnostic potential.
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