Cancer cells develop the ability to avoid detection by our immune system. This understanding has lead to the development of a class of therapy, called immunotherapy, that strives to engage aspects of one’s own immune system to gain or regain the ability to detect and destroy cancer.
Our understanding of the microbiome and its impact on our immune system is ever evolving but what we can land upon is that there is a symbiotic relationship between our microbiota and our immune system. A healthy, diverse microbiota positively influences our immune system.
With this understanding, it is not too surprising that two recent studies have found a connection between gut health and the outcome of certain cancer immunotherapies.
In the first study entitled Gut microbiome modulates response to anti–PD-1 immunotherapy in melanoma patients scientists examined the oral and gut microbiome of melanoma patients undergoing a therapy called Anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. As stated in the study,
“Significant differences were observed in the diversity and composition of the patient gut microbiome of responders (to the treatment) versus non-responders (to the treatment)…Immune profiling suggested enhanced systemic and anti-tumor immunity in responding patients with a favorable gut microbiome”
The second study entitled Gut microbiome influences efficacy of PD-1–based immunotherapy against epithelial tumors found evidence suggesting that antibiotics taken in close proximation of treatment depleted microbiome diversity resulting in less favourable results than those with a more diverse microbiome.
These studies lend support to that adage that all roads to good health lead to the gut. More importantly they demonstrate the importance of fostering a healthy microbiome. Cancer protocols must lend support to promoting gut health. In general terms this would suggest a diet that incorporates fermented foods, one that is rich in fruits and vegetables, high in fiberous foods and one that is devoid of all processed foods.