PerspectiveCancer Microbiome

Cancer immunity thwarted by the microbiome

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Science  25 May 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6391, pp. 858-859
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8289

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Liver cancer rates have tripled since 1980, making it one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide (1). The efficacy of a variety of cancer treatments, as well as carcinogenesis itself, can be influenced by the microbiome (2). Microbiome-cancer interactions are complex, as the microbiome can promote chronic inflammation or directly affect cancer cells. Furthermore, by influencing the immune system, the microbiome may either promote or inhibit antitumor immune responses (3). On page 876 of this issue, Ma et al. (4) show that a type of commensal bacteria, Clostridium species, prevents an effective immune response to both primary liver tumors and liver metastases by a previously unknown mechanism: not by means of its own metabolites, but by modifying a host product—the bile acids that liver cells are exposed to.