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Study indicates gut microbes play crucial roles in treating cancer

Certain microorganisms in our gut help us stay healthy, and some new research is providing evidence that these microbes also play a significant role in cancer treatment.


Our body, the gut in particular, is a sanctuary for various microorganisms, and in return for a place to live the microbes provide us with various health benefits.  These benefits can range from better digestion to more sophisticated and essential cell signaling mechanisms that help us to maintain homeostasis.

In a recent study, scientists found that the presence of these essential microbes was crucial to determining how effective certain cancer treatments may turn out.  Commensal microbiota, or the good microorganisms that live in our gut, interact with their host’s immune system to prevent various infections and even certain cancer.

Our immune system is smart, but that doesn’t mean that it can ward off all forms of sickness on its own.  Often times, the good neighboring microbes will lend our immune system some help by sending out signals, molecules, or trigger some type of mechanism to prevent and stop things that may make us sick.  When it comes to cancer, our immune system can use all the help it can get.

Scientists have found that certain cancer treatments become much less effective if they depleted mice of their commensal microbiota.  The relationship between these microbes and their influence on the effectiveness of anti-cancer treatments are still being investigated, but for the time being it’s relatively apparent that these microbes want to keep their home—even if it means aligning themselves with cell-killers.

“The use of antibiotics should be considered as an important element affecting microbiota composition.  It has been demonstrated, and our present study has confirmed, that after antibiotic treatment the bacterial composition in the gut never returns to its initial composition,” said Giorgio Trinchieri, M.D., and director of the Cancer and Inflammation Program, Center of Cancer Research, NCI.  “Thus, our findings raise the possibility that the frequent use of antibiotics during a patient’s lifetime or to treat infections related to cancer and its side-effects may affect the success of anti-cancer therapy.”

Source: Medical Xpress | Image (Omosis Jones & Drix: DeviantArt)

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