PerspectiveCANCER IMMUNOTHERAPY

Modulating gut microbiota to treat cancer

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Science  05 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6529, pp. 573-574
DOI: 10.1126/science.abg2904

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Summary

In the fourth century, a Chinese practitioner reportedly used the stool of healthy subjects to treat patients with diarrhea (1). In 1958, fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) was reported as a treatment for Clostridium difficile infection that was resistant to antibiotics (2). FMT became an option for routine treatment for such infections in 2013, after a clinical trial demonstrated a higher response rate in C. difficile–infected patients treated with FMT (81%) compared to those treated with an antibiotic (31%) (3). Since then, interest in FMT has evolved in diverse clinical settings. In cancer, studies on hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, arguably the first immunotherapy of the modern cancer era, have suggested a role for the gut microbiota in clinical outcomes (4). On pages 602 and 595 of this issue, Baruch et al. (5) and Davar et al. (6), respectively, report that manipulating the gut microbiota may allow cancer patients to overcome resistance to immunotherapy.

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