A novel review published by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, has explored evidence surrounding the gut microbiome’s impact on patient responses to cancer therapies. Lead study author, Khalid Shah, Vice-chair of Research, Department of Neurosurgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, explained the importance of the gut microbiome for many facets of human health, “Our gut is so important that we often refer to it as our ‘second’ brain.”
Shah and his team investigated the increasing understanding of the relationship between immunotherapy and gut microbiota. Patient responses to immunotherapy can vary considerably and several previous studies have found differences in the bacteria profiles in faecal samples between therapy responders and non-responders. The authors further highlighted the impact of probiotic and ketogenic diets, both known to change the composition of the gut microbiome, on immunotherapy efficacy.
The authors further discussed and analysed evidence demonstrating the impact of the gut microbiome on chemotherapy and other more traditional cancer treatments. Exploring the reciprocal effect of cancer treatments on the gut microbiome, the study findings supported the conclusion that the gut microbiome can diminish the side effects of conventional cancer therapies.
“Today, developing treatments that sync immunotherapies and gut microbiota provides medicine a unique opportunity to truly effect change in patient care,” summarised Shah. However, there is currently little understanding of what the ideal bacterial profile in the gut looks like. The limitations in understanding are currently being combatted by multiple clinical trials exploring the influence of the microbiome and how this can be translated to clinical therapies. These include faecal microbial transplantation, dietary supplements, and novel drugs, all to attempting to influence and optimise microbiota composition.
Looking to the future, Shah stated, “There is strong evidence that the gut microbiome can have a positive influence on cancer therapies. There remain exciting possibilities to explore.”