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Gut bacteria affects treatment

Patients with malignant melanoma are more likely to respond to immunotherapy treatment if they have greater diversity... 


... in their gut bacteria, according to new research. The team behind the work also found significant differences in the type of bacteria in the gut of people whose cancer responded versus those whose didn’t.

Scientists at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre studied over 200 mouth and 100 gut microbiome samples from people who had advanced melanoma. Dr Jennifer Wargo, lead researcher at the University of Texas, said: “Our research shows a really interesting link that may mean the immune system is aided by gut bacteria when responding to these drugs. Not all patients respond to immunotherapy drugs and it’s hard to know who will benefit from the treatment prior to it being given. “The gut microbiome can be changed through a number of diff erent strategies, so there is real potential here to modify the gut microbiome to boost an immunotherapy response.”

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with about 14,600 people diagnosed each year. About 2300 die from the disease annually. The research was presented at the National Cancer Research Institute’s Cancer Conference, held in Liverpool. The findings suggest that adapting people’s gut bacteria – for example, giving antibiotics, probiotics, or a faecal transplant before immunotherapy – could increase the benefits already achieved with new immunotherapy drugs now being used to treat several different types of cancer. However, the researchers stressed that clinical trials are needed before any recommendations are made. 

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