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April 28, 2022

The Potential of the Gut Microbiome to Reshape the Cancer Therapy Paradigm: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Stem Cell and Translational Immunotherapy (CSTI), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Neurosurgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
JAMA Oncol. 2022;8(7):1059-1067. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2022.0494

Importance  The gut microbiome, home to the vast kingdom of diverse commensal bacteria and other microorganisms residing within the gut, was once thought to only have roles primarily centered on digestive functions. However, recent advances in sequencing technology have elucidated intricate roles of the gut microbiome in cancer development and efficacy of therapeutic response that need to be comprehensively addressed from a clinically translational angle.

Observations  This review aims to highlight the current understanding of the association of the gut microbiome with the therapeutic response to immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, cancer surgery, and more, while also contextualizing possible synergistic strategies with the microbiome for tackling some of the most challenging tumors. It also provides insights on contemporary methods that target the microbiota and the current progression of findings being translated from bench to bedside.

Conclusions and Relevance  Ultimately, the importance of gut bacteria in cancer therapy cannot be overstated in its potential for ushering in a new era of cancer treatments. With the understanding that the microbiome may play critical roles in the tumor microenvironment, holistic approaches that integrate microbiome-modulating treatments with biological, immune, cell-based, and surgical cancer therapies should be explored.

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