As cancer epidemic is gaining more and more lives, researchers are bent on finding solutions and remedies. A new study focusing on combating cancer has shown that certain bacteria added to the gut of mice can increase the ability of the latter’s immune system to attack tumour cells. The findings are published in Science.
Researchers from the University of Chicago recently discovered the action of adding bacteria to the digestive tract of mice. The positive effect of the microorganisms was comparable to a form of efficient anti-tumour drug called checkpoint inhibitor. Furthermore, when the bacteria were given in oral doses together with checkpoint inhibitors, the tumour outgrowth was nearly eliminated.
“Our results clearly demonstrate a significant, although unexpected, role for specific gut bacteria in enhancing the immune system’s response to melanoma and possibly many other tumour types,” says study author Dr. Thomas Gajewski.
Checkpoint inhibitors work by blocking tumour cells from attaching to the immune system’s ‘soldiers’ known as T cells (the latter which can normally destroy cancer cells are often the target of tumour cells that render them inactive). The inhibitors, therefore, protect T cells from being attacked by tumours. However, only 1 in 3 patients undergo successful treatment with the drug – a trend also seen in the mice. The gut bacteria appear to solve this problem.
When the mice that were not displaying the required response were put together with the other mice, the difference was no longer there; the researchers found that they were sharing microbes, such that the mice ended up having a greater anti-tumour response.
The next step is to analyse other bacteria in this regard.
“The field has recently recognized close connections between the gut microbiome and the immune system. This finding provides a novel way to exploit that connection, to improve immunotherapy by selectively modulating intestinal bacteria,” says De. Gajewski.