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Anticancer immunotherapy by CTLA-4 blockade relies on the gut microbiota

Science  27 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6264, pp. 1079-1084
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1329

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Gut microbes affect immunotherapy

The unleashing of antitumor T cell responses has ushered in a new era of cancer treatment. Although these therapies can cause dramatic tumor regressions in some patients, many patients inexplicably see no benefit. Mice have been used in two studies to investigate what might be happening. Specific members of the gut microbiota influence the efficacy of this type of immunotherapy (see the Perspective by Snyder et al.). Vétizou et al. found that optimal responses to anticytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen blockade required specific Bacteroides spp. Similarly, Sivan et al. discovered that Bifidobacterium spp. enhanced the efficacy of antiprogrammed cell death ligand 1 therapy.

Science, this issue, p. 1079 and p. 1084; see also p. 1031

Abstract

Antibodies targeting CTLA-4 have been successfully used as cancer immunotherapy. We find that the antitumor effects of CTLA-4 blockade depend on distinct Bacteroides species. In mice and patients, T cell responses specific for B. thetaiotaomicron or B. fragilis were associated with the efficacy of CTLA-4 blockade. Tumors in antibiotic-treated or germ-free mice did not respond to CTLA blockade. This defect was overcome by gavage with B. fragilis, by immunization with B. fragilis polysaccharides, or by adoptive transfer of B. fragilis–specific T cells. Fecal microbial transplantation from humans to mice confirmed that treatment of melanoma patients with antibodies against CTLA-4 favored the outgrowth of B. fragilis with anticancer properties. This study reveals a key role for Bacteroidales in the immunostimulatory effects of CTLA-4 blockade.

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