AUG 19, 2020 12:24 PM PDT

Link between microbiome and cancer treatment outcomes

New research published in the journal European Urology reports that greater gut microbial diversity in patients with metastatic kidney cancer is associated with better treatment outcomes in immunotherapy regimens. The research adds to already-established evidence supporting the critical importance of the gut microbiome in myriad aspects of the body.

"Previous studies have suggested a relationship between the gut microbiome and response to immunotherapy in solid tumors, including metastatic kidney cancer," said lead author Nicholas Salgia, B.Sc., a clinical research assistant at City of Hope. "The results from our study build on earlier findings and reaffirm that the diversity and composition of patients' microbiomes are associated with clinical responses to anti-cancer therapies."

Salgia and other City of Hope physicians worked alongside TGen scientists (Translational Genomics Research Institute) to analyze data from 31 people with metastatic kidney cancer. Participants provided stool samples throughout different time points in the treatment (baseline, four weeks into therapy and 12 weeks into therapy) so that the researchers could identify changes in the microbiome over time.

The team found that greater diversity in the gut microbiome was associated with improved treatment outcomes. "We also reported the changes over time in the gut microbiome that occur during the course of therapy -- the cumulative findings from our report open the door to therapies directed at the microbiome," said senior author Sumanta Pal, M.D. who is co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program at City of Hope.

"The patients with the highest benefit from cancer treatment were those with more microbial diversity, but also those with a higher abundance of a specific bacterium known as Akkermansia muciniphila," said senior author Sarah Highlander, Ph.D., a research professor in TGen's Pathogen and Microbiome Division. "This organism has been associated with benefit in other immunotherapy studies."

Photo: Pixabay

The researchers say there is also potential to improve treatment outcomes by manipulating the gut microbiome during the therapy. For example, taking a probiotic supplement and eating a high-fiber diet high in fructooligosaccharides could help patients undergoing treatment.

The team hopes that these findings will pave the way towards developing personalized treatment plans for metastatic kidney cancer patients. In order to continue with their investigations, they plan to expand their study to follow a larger size group over more time.

Sources: European Urology, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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