The tumor microbiome emerges as a new source of translational opportunities
The next frontier in microbiome research is bacteria hiding out in tumors
While the gut microbiome has attracted wide attention for its influence on anti-tumor immunity, a growing body of research suggests microbes living in the tumor itself may play even broader roles in cancer. At least two companies are acting on the data, but an early challenge will be sorting out true tumor microbiome signatures from sample contamination.
Since 2015, several high profile studies have linked gut microbiome composition to checkpoint inhibitor response, both as a means of patient stratification and as an opportunity for therapeutic intervention. The connection between gut microbes and anti-tumor immunity lies in the vast numbers of immune cells in lymphoid tissues surrounding the gut, whose activity can be influenced by the bugs (see “Checking Out the Microbiome”).
But it turns out that tumors have their own microbiomes, and early findings suggest they play roles in tumor growth and chemotherapy response, as well as in anti-tumor immunity.
“A tumor is an immune compromised environment, and anaerobic. It makes sense bacteria can survive and thrive there.”
“A tumor is an immune compromised environment, and anaerobic. It makes sense bacteria can survive and thrive