Parasites and Cancer: An Intricate Connection

Parasites and Cancer: An Intricate Connection

Parasites and Cancer: An Intricate Connection

Editorial Article Front. Med., 22 March 2019 

Sec. Infectious Diseases – Surveillance, Prevention and Treatment 

Volume 6 - 2019 |

Parasites and Cancer: An Intricate Connection

by Monica C. Botelho and Joachim Richter

1. Department of Health Promotion and Chronic Diseases, INSA, National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge, Porto, Portugal

2. I3S, Instituto de Investigação e Inovação da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal 

3. Institute of Tropical Medicine and International Health, Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany

Editorial on the Research Topic: Parasites and Cancer

The link between parasites and cancer is a growing field of study. Certain parasites, such as the blood fluke Schistosoma haematobium and the small liver flukes Opisthorchis viverrini and Clonorchis sinensis, have emerged as causative agents of malignancies. Examples include bladder cancer, brought on by schistosomes, and cholangiocarcinoma, triggered by liver flukes. In many regions where these parasites are endemic, they account for the majority of cancer cases.

Parasites, other than helminths, are also linked to cancers, such as Theileria, an intracellular eukaryotic parasite. Interestingly, some parasite infections or molecules seem to exhibit protective effects on certain cancers, as is the case with Echinococcus.

Developing an understanding of how these parasites either cause or deter oncogenesis in humans will aid in the creation of novel strategies for controlling parasitosis, preventing, and treating the infection-associated malignancy.

The Infectious Diseases—Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment section of the journal Frontiers in Medicine, in collaboration with the journal Frontiers in Public Health, hosted the first Research Topic on Parasites and Cancer. The objective is to expedite global parasites infection-associated cancer elimination through scientific advancements.

Nearly 40 authors, representing Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, Portugal, the United States, and Thailand, contributed to this Research Topic, making it a truly global effort. Several of these authors are highly cited in the field of parasites and cancer, including Ross H. Andrews, Paul Brindley, Michael H. Hsieh, Alex Loukas, Donald McManus, Trevor N. Petney, Paiboon Sithithaworn, and Puangrat Yongvanit.

This Research Topic includes eight papers, covering a wide range of subjects including epidemiology, the evolution of helminths, mechanisms of parasite-associated oncogenesis, potential therapeutics, diagnostics, host pathology, parasite biology, health burden, and prevention and control programs.

In the realm of helminths evolution, Laila A. Nahum and her team (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (FIOCRUZ), Belo Horizonte, Brazil) submitted a mini-review discussing the evolutionary perspective of helminths and cancer. Ruben Fernandes and colleagues (I3S, Instituto de Investigação e Inovação da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal) explored how Theileria parasites maintain host leucocyte transformation through the secretion of a prolyl isomerase.

Narong Khuntikeo and his team (Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand) presented a review about the current situation regarding the natural history of opisthorchiasis and the health burden of cholangiocarcinoma in Southeast Asia. This review also describes a comprehensive approach to addressing these issues being implemented in Thailand under the "Cholangiocarcinoma Screening and Care Program." Francisco Almeida et al. (Centro Hospitalar São João, Porto, Portugal) contributed a crucial piece to the literature concerning the prevalence of Fasciola hepatica in the North of Portugal.

The review by Michael H. Hsieh and Kenji Ishida (Biomedical Research Institute, Rockville, MD, United States) sheds light on Urogenital Schistosomiasis-Related Bladder Cancer, highlighting the latest studies on schistosome-associated bladder cancer, including those that focus on identifying changes in host biology during S. haematobium infection.

The feedback from Frontiers has been overwhelmingly positive, with many of the papers from this research topic garnering more than 1,000 views. We hope that this e-book will not only inform and engage its readers, but also stimulate innovative research in the field of parasites and related cancers. Our ultimate goal is to pave the way for better control, prevention, and potentially, a cure for parasite-associated cancers.

Author Contributions All authors listed have made a significant, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work, and approved it for publication.


1. Ferreira S, Fernandes R, Botelho MC. Fasciola hepatica extract induces cell death of mammalian cells. Antiinfect Agents. (2018) 16, 144–146. doi: 10.2174/1570180815666180531102555

PubMed Abstract | CrossRef Full Text | Google Scholar

2. Fernandes R, Alves H, Botelho MC. The cancer hygiene hypothesis: from theory to therapeutic helminths. Curr Cancer Ther Rev. (2019). doi: 10.2174/1573394714666181003143717. [Epub ahead of print].

CrossRef Full Text

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