Having a healthy gut may be one of the most important factors in the success of cancer treatments. The information comes from a large survey that linked the quality of the gut microbiome to the response to melanoma immunotherapy shown by volunteers.
Currently, less than 50% of patients respond positively to immunotherapy for the treatment of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. The rate exposes the need to find strategies to increase the number of positive responses.
According to the study published this Monday (28/2), in the journal Nature Medicine, “understanding the characteristics of the microbiome can allow doctors to modify a patient’s microbiome before starting treatment”.
The researchers collected a large number of melanoma patients and gut microbiome samples from five clinical centers in the UK, the Netherlands and Spain. With these data, it was possible to perform a large-scale metagenomic study, with gut microbiome sequencing, to investigate the association between gut microbiome composition and function and response to immunotherapy.
The presence of three types of bacteria in the intestine – Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum, Roseburia spp. and Akkermansia muciniphila – was associated with a better immune response. The set of microorganisms that live in the intestine can be modified by simple changes in diet, with the ingestion of probiotics, for example. This change, in turn, alters the action of the microbiome on the immune system.
“This study shows that the odds of survival based on healthy microbes nearly doubled across subgroups,” said Professor Tim Spector, from the School of Life Course & Population Sciences, King’s College London.
The study also showed that the microbiome itself is strongly influenced by factors such as the patient’s diet, physical build, and use of medications that inhibit the H+/K+-ATPase enzyme in the stomach ( proton pump inhibitors).
“The ultimate goal is to identify the specific characteristics of the microbiome that directly influence the clinical benefits of immunotherapy in order to exploit these characteristics in novel personalized approaches. Meanwhile, this study highlights the potential impact of good diet and gut health on the chances of survival for patients undergoing immunotherapy,” Spector said.
Source: Metropolis | Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images