Gut Bacteria in Mouse Models Energize Cancer Treatment

The human body is filled with about 100 trillion microorganisms or bacteria in its intestines, which is much more than even the number of cells in the body. These gut bacteria aid in fermenting undigested carbohydrates and consume fatty acids. The microbes are also found in other mammals. New research shows that these gut microbes may help during cancer treatment. The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that two studies discovered gut bacteria in mice strengthen cancer therapies by stimulating the immune system.

The researchers found out that when the microbial agents are taken out of the picture, the cancer treatments are significantly less fruitful. The investigators of the studies, however, explain that it is much too early to apply these findings to people.

Essentially, a strong immune system and a healthy microbial environment may be the best combination for fighting cancer. The researchers used antibiotics to stop the gut bacteria from having an effect alongside the cancer therapy. The New Scientist publication proposes that “antibiotics and cancer might not always make a good combination.”

The research team, based in the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France, analyzed a drug that treats both brain and blood cancers. The drug stimulates the production of T-cells to destroy tumors.

The investigators administered the medication to mice with sarcomas and skin cancer. The drug caused the microbes to move outside of the small intestines and into the lymph nodes and spleen. The bacteria was able to have an effect on the immune system including stimulating the development of tumor-targeting T-cells.

A second group of mice was given the antibiotics vancomycin in order to inhibit the gut bacteria. The cancer drugs were shown to be much less robust at treating the disease after antibiotics were administered.

The connection between bacteria and cancer treatment may need further study based on these results. Since the findings stem from mouse models, it is much too early to throw out antibiotics for cancer patients. Future research may provide a better glimpse into how gut bacteria aid in cancer therapy.

“Extending the results to humans requires deliberate study as antibiotics can be life-saving in the setting of cancer and chemotherapy,” Cynthia Sears from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland told the news source. “One key source of life-threatening bloodstream infections in this setting can be the gut bacteria.”

Another study stemming from the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland gave one group of mice with cancer a drug used in chemotherapy and an antibiotic cocktail. After three weeks, 80 percent of the mice in this group died. A similar amount of mice in a second group that was not given the antibiotics were still alive three weeks later.

These two separate studies show that gut flora may be able to assist cancer therapies in fighting this disease. Additionally, the research illustrates the fact that animal models play an imperative role in scientific progress.

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Categories: Immunology, Oncology

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