Gut microbiome could affect the success of cancer therapy

Possible connection between success of cancer treatment and intestinal microbiome

Various treatment methods are available to treat cancer, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Treatment also depends on the type of tumor. The course of therapy differs from person to person. According to the researchers, this could also have something to do with the gut microbiome.

Cancer patients respond differently well to therapies. How successful the classic treatment methods are may depend on the composition of the microbiome in the intestine. This is indicated by the results of researchers from Jena and Hong Kong. The experts examined eight different types of cancer for their study.

Efficiency often not as high as desired

According to a message from the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute (HKI), around every sixth death worldwide is related to cancer.

The best known therapeutic methods include chemotherapy and immunotherapy. The mode of action of these treatments relies on the cancer cells no longer dividing or the immune system being supported in killing the tumor cells.

However, despite the well-developed anti-cancer therapies, efficiency is often not as high as desired.

Gut microbiome could play an important role in therapy success

"All the data indicate that the gut microbiome, i.e. the entirety of all microorganisms that live in our gut, plays an important role in the success of therapy," explains Gianni Panagiotou from the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology in Jena.

With his team, the scientist analyzed stool samples from several cancer patients treated with chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. The researchers published their results in the journal "Microbiome".

Although the test group with patients with eight different types of cancer was small, the scientists were able to find some similarities in stool analysis:

“The intestinal microbiomes of those cancer patients who responded well to the therapy show a greater microbial diversity. In addition, their bacterial species found in the gut differ from those of those patients who reacted less well to the therapeutic measures, ”explains Panagiotou.

The species Bacteroides ovatus and Bacteroides xylanisolvens were found more frequently in patients with successful treatment, whereas Clostridium symbiosum and Ruminococcus gnavus were more common in patients in whom the anti-cancer therapy was less successful.

Calculate the probability of successful anti-cancer treatment

Using the knowledge gained, the researchers around Panagiotou developed a predictive model based on machine learning: It should make it possible in the long term to calculate the probability of successful anti-cancer treatment regardless of the type of cancer before starting therapy.

After feeding the model with the data already collected, the scientists tested the accuracy of the predictions using a comparison group. During the review, the model demonstrated a high degree of predictive accuracy.

“However, our comparison group has so far been small. Our next task is to confirm the results so far with a larger number of comparative data, ”said Panagiotou.

Together with numerous colleagues, the expert at the Balance of the Microverse Cluster of Excellence in Jena is researching the mechanisms with which microbiomes and their environment interact. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute (HKI): Can the microbiome lead to a therapy prognosis for cancer in the future ?, (Call: March 24th, 2020), Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute (HKI)
  • Yoshitaro Heshiki, Ruben Vazquez-Uribe, Jin Li, Yueqiong Ni, Scott Quainoo, Lejla Imamovic, Jun Li, Maria Sørensen, Billy KC Chow, Glen J. Weiss, Aimin Xu, Morten OA Sommer & Gianni Panagiotou: Predictable modulation of cancer treatment outcomes by the gut microbiota; in: Microbiome, (published: 05.03.2020), Microbiome

Video: The gut microbiome: role in causing and detecting colorectal cancer (January 2022).