In DepthMicrobiome

Microbes aid cancer drugs

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Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261, pp. 614-615
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6261.614

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A new class of cancer treatments that unleash the power of the immune system on tumors may depend on some unlikely allies. Two studies of mice in this week's issue of Science demonstrate that the gut microbiome—the swarms of microorganisms dwelling in the intestines—determines how effective these cancer immunotherapies are. Known as checkpoint inhibitors, the therapies foil one of cancer's most devious survival tricks: its ability to turn off the immune response that might otherwise attack tumor cells. In one case, researchers found that a checkpoint inhibitor targeting CTLA4, a molecule on T cells, works best in mice if their guts contain bacteria in the Bacteroides and Burkholderia genera. In the other, a drug targeting PD-L1 showed a similar dependency on members of the genus Bifidobacterium.