In this work, we explored the presence of intra-tumor fungi – the tumor mycobiome. In collaboration with the Knight lab, we looked into the presence of fungi in 35 tumor types and over 17,000 human samples. Fungi were detected in all of these tumor types and demonstrated tumor-type specific signatures. Similar to bacteria, fungi were visualized in both cancer and immune cells. We found interesting fungal-bacterial-immune cell associations. In addition, we found specific fungi associated with different clinical outcomes, such as response to immunotherapy and overall survival. Lastly, we found that fungal DNA within the plasma of individuals could be used to discriminate between healthy individuals and cancer patients.
Tumor mycobiome illustration featured on the cover of cell. The Cover art is used here to symbolize the novel and diverse world of the tumor mycobiome, which is rooted in the tumor microenvironment. Image credit: Marzia Munafo
Tumor mycobiome illustration. The image portrays fungi in the depths of the larger tumor landscape among cancer cells (brown), blood vessels and bacteria (red), and immune cells (yellow). Image credit: Jessica Johnson
Tumor mycobiome illustration. The art is used here to symbolize the unearthing of the tumor mycobiome as part of an archeological excavation, where it's identity and functions are just starting to be revealed. Image credit: Ella Maru Studio