Global Health News
Gut Bacteria May Help Drugs Fight Cancer
Condensed by L.D. Ramirez (sourced from a BBC News article by James Gallagher)
Bacteria living deep inside the digestive system seem to alter how cancer drugs work, a study suggests.
Immunotherapies - which harness the body's own defences to fight tumours - can clear even terminal cancer in a small proportion of patients.
However, a small study by the University of Texas found those harbouring a more diverse community of gut bugs are more likely to benefit.
The research group compared the gut bacteria in 23 patients who responded to immunotherapy and 11 who did not. The study found Ruminococcus bacteria in much higher levels in those that responded to treatment.
It suggests that it may be possible to boost the effectiveness of immunotherapy by altering the balance of bacteria in the gut.
However, it is not yet clear if the differences in bacteria are the cause of the better response.
People with diets containing more fruit and vegetables tend to have a richer set of gut bugs, so it is possible that it is those with a healthier lifestyle that respond better to therapy.
"This would still point to a healthy diet increasing your chances, which is a great message," says Dr. Jennifer Wargo, a melanoma surgeon and scientist.