Intestine bacteria in the fight against cancer


New study determines that our body’s reactions to cancer treatments depend heavily on the types of bacteria lodged in the digestive system.

That is, the greater the diversity of bacteria housed in the intestine of a patient with cancer, the greater the chance that the patient will be able to respond positively to an immunotherapy treatment. Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center found through this study that patients who responded well to treatment through immunotherapy had a greater diversity of bacteria than those who did not show any improvement.

This study, presented at the Cancer Conference of the National Cancer Research Institute in Liverpool, looked at up to 200 mouth bacteria and more than 100 bacteria from the intestines of several people with melanoma. And he was able to conclude that the reaction to the treatment does not differ according to the bacteria found in the mouth, but that it improves or worsens depending on the bacteria housed in the digestive system.

This is one of the first studies to examine this issue at the human level, after previous investigations have already reached this conclusion but have been carried out only in rats.

Immunotherapy is a way to combat disease, in this case cancer, which uses the patient’s own immune system to defend himself. However, it has had disparate results, scientists are now trying to figure out why, and these findings recently presented may help to understand the process.

Briefly, doctors will be able to make changes to the intestinal microbiome, through antibiotics, probiotics or fecal transplantation, in order to boost the results of immunotherapy.

“Intestinal microbes have been shown to influence chemotherapy treatments, so it is not surprising that they have an impact on responses to new immunotherapies,” said Pippa Corrie, president of the National Cancer Research Institute.

He also added that, “Manipulating the intestinal flora may be the new formula to increase the activity of immunotherapy drugs as well as to manage problematic toxicity in the future.”