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Healthy gut microbiota increases cancer treatment success

by Pragati Singh

The biggest study to date has validated the association between the gut microbiota and melanoma treatment response.
The study, which was co-ordinated by King’s College London, the CIBIO Department of the University of Trento and the European Institute of Oncology in Italy, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and financed by the Seerave Foundation, was published today in Nature Medicine. “Preliminary studies on a limited number of patients have suggested that the gut microbiome, as an immune system regulator, plays a role in the response of each patient to cancer immunotherapy, particularly in the case of melanoma,” said Dr Karla Lee, clinical researcher at King’s College London and first author of the study.

This new study has the potential to have a significant influence on cancer and medicine in general. “Dietary modifications, next generation probiotics, and faecal transplantation can all influence the microbiome, or the community of bacteria that dwell in the intestines.” This shift alters the microbiome’s impact on the immune system. Understanding the features of the microbiome allows treating professionals to modify a patient’s microbiome before beginning therapy. Because less than half of melanoma patients react positively to immunotherapy, finding ways to enhance the percentage of positive responders is critical.
The study gathered the biggest cohort of melanoma patients and samples of their gut microbiota from five clinical centres in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Researchers conducted a large-scale metagenomic investigation (gut microbiome sequencing) to determine whether there is a link between the makeup and function of the gut microbiota and immunotherapy response.
The findings indicated a complicated relationship involving different bacterial species in distinct patient cohorts. The presence of three bacteria (Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum, Roseburia spp., and Akkermansia muciniphila) appears to be linked to a greater immune response. Another conclusion was that the microbiome is substantially changed by factors such as patient constitution, usage of proton pump inhibitors, and food, which should be taken into account in future longterm research.
“This study reveals that the chances of survival based on healthy bacteria practically increased between subgroups,” said co-author Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London.

The ultimate objective is to determine which particular microbiome properties are directly impacting the therapeutic effects of immunotherapy in order to utilise these qualities in novel personalised approaches to cancer immunotherapy. In the interim, this study underlines the potential influence of a healthy diet and gut health on survival in immunotherapy patients.”
“Our work suggests that investigating the microbiome is vital for improving and personalising immunotherapy therapies for melanoma,” said co-author Professor Nicola Segata of the University of Trento. However, because the gut microbiome varies from person to person, bigger studies are needed to determine the precise gut microbial traits that are more likely to contribute to a good response to immunotherapy.”

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