4 April 2016

The influence of gut flora on anti-cancer treatment

These two concepts may feel completely foreign to one another, but there is in fact a solid background to suggest one's anti-cancer treatment may be as effective as one's gut flora is diverse.

We know that cancer cells have developed a system to bypass the immune system so that our body is not efficient at fighting them.

On the other hand, we've always known that the gut flora and all our microbes all over our body have developed a partnership with our immune cells. From birth, the first microbes residing in and on us help us fight our invaders (more on this here).

The past five years have seen a surge in publications linking the two showing that gut flora diversity is key to fighting cancer on three fronts:

1. Diversity helps to avoid pro-cancer species to multiply in excess, which would help the rise of cancer cells

Indeed, colorectal cancer has now been firmly linked to an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut flora with a predominance of fusobacterium, a pro-inflammatory species that drives cancer DNA mutations - more on this here.

2. Good species help the immune system fight the cancer cells
3. Good species help the body cope with chemotherapy and radiation side effects that affect the immune system

Microbial species in your gut are able to modulate the activity of different components of our immune system that aid the anti-cancer drug to fight cancer.*

So what can we do with this information? Currently there are only a few dietary measures that we can apply to hopefully avoid a microbial imbalance. I will address these very soon in a Monday article.

Did you know that some doctors advise you to take some probiotics when undergoing anti-cancer treatment?
Please feel free to share your stories or thoughts in the comments below, I'd love to read them.

See you next Monday!

* The two papers are: Iida N, et al. Commensal bacteria control cancer response to therapy by modulating the tumor microenvironment. Science 2013; 342: 967-970.
Viaud S, et al. The intestinal microbiota modulates the anticancer immune effects of cyclophosphamide. Science 2013; 342: 971-976.


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