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Gut microbiome modulates response to anti–PD-1 immunotherapy in melanoma patients

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Science  05 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6371, pp. 97-103
DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4236

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Good bacteria help fight cancer

Resident gut bacteria can affect patient responses to cancer immunotherapy (see the Perspective by Jobin). Routy et al. show that antibiotic consumption is associated with poor response to immunotherapeutic PD-1 blockade. They profiled samples from patients with lung and kidney cancers and found that nonresponding patients had low levels of the bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila. Oral supplementation of the bacteria to antibiotic-treated mice restored the response to immunotherapy. Matson et al. and Gopalakrishnan et al. studied melanoma patients receiving PD-1 blockade and found a greater abundance of “good” bacteria in the guts of responding patients. Nonresponders had an imbalance in gut flora composition, which correlated with impaired immune cell activity. Thus, maintaining healthy gut flora could help patients combat cancer.

Science, this issue p. 91, p. 104, p. 97; see also p. 32

Abstract

Preclinical mouse models suggest that the gut microbiome modulates tumor response to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy; however, this has not been well-characterized in human cancer patients. Here we examined the oral and gut microbiome of melanoma patients undergoing anti–programmed cell death 1 protein (PD-1) immunotherapy (n = 112). Significant differences were observed in the diversity and composition of the patient gut microbiome of responders versus nonresponders. Analysis of patient fecal microbiome samples (n = 43, 30 responders, 13 nonresponders) showed significantly higher alpha diversity (P < 0.01) and relative abundance of bacteria of the Ruminococcaceae family (P < 0.01) in responding patients. Metagenomic studies revealed functional differences in gut bacteria in responders, including enrichment of anabolic pathways. Immune profiling suggested enhanced systemic and antitumor immunity in responding patients with a favorable gut microbiome as well as in germ-free mice receiving fecal transplants from responding patients. Together, these data have important implications for the treatment of melanoma patients with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

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