Enhancing melanoma treatment response through gut bacteria

Enhancing melanoma treatment response through gut bacteria

3 November 2017

New research has found that gut bacteria may play a role in how well a melanoma patient will respond to immunotherapy. The study found patients with a greater diversity in their gut bacteria tended to respond better to treatment. 

This research, published today in the prestigious Science journal, was presented at our Australasian Melanoma Conference last year. 

By comparing the gut bacteria of melanoma patients who responded to immunotherapy and those who did not, researchers found a stark contrast in the balance of bacterial species in the faecal samples of responding and non-responding patients.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Jennifer Wargo from MD Anderson Cancer Center, who presented at the 2016 Australasian Melanoma Conference, says, "Not all patients respond to immunotherapy drugs and it's hard to know who will benefit from the treatment prior to it being given. Our research shows a really interesting link that may mean the immune system is aided by gut bacteria when responding to these drugs.”

Adapting people's gut bacteria, such as giving antibiotics, probiotics, or a faecal transplant, may increase the benefits of immunotherapy drugs and reduce toxicities, though more research is needed in this area.

"The gut microbiome can be changed through a number of different strategies,” says A/Prof Wargo. “There is real potential here to modify the gut microbiome to boost an immunotherapy response."

A/Prof Wargo and her colleagues now plan to run a clinical trial to test the benefits of combining immunotherapy with microbiome modulation in cancer patients.

Read more about the study.

Watch A/Prof Wargo's video interview below to find out more about the research she presented at the conference.