Research from the University of Chicago has caused a bit of a stir. After all the hype of how the new breed of immunotherapies, enhance the performance of existing chemo and add years onto survival times, it would seem there is just as an effective solution – and you can do it yourself, cheaper!
Immunotherapy, for example with melanoma, uses ‘check point inhibitors. These block, the cancer’s ability to hide from the immune system. Drugs like ipilimumab, nivolumab and pembrolizumab are expensive, and work on less than 20 per cent of cases, puzzling scientists. They increaded life expectancy from about 5 months for chemo alone, to 17 months on average in combination.
Now researchers led by Thomas Gajewski, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Chicago have shown that certain bacteria enhanced the immune system’s response to a cancer.
Indeed, first they noticed that some mice in the experiment, had a robust immune response to melanoma, while another group from a different supplier had no such response. So they checked and found it was all to do with the bacteria in the mice microbiome. When they then searched for which bacteria delivered the benefit, they were surprised to find it was Bifidobacterium (the bacterium a baby picks up from mum as it passes through the birth canal. This bacterium is known to promote a strong T-cell anti-tumour response. And providing Bifidobacteria enabled a ‘robust immune response’.
They are now looking at what others might also deliver this response.
Not surprisingly, a second study, this time from the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris, has found that antibiotics can disrupt the antitumor effects of ipilimumab.
However, restoring the gut microbiome health in antibiotic-treated mice restored the drug´s anti-cancer effects.
Only recently, in Cancer Watch we covered research that showed the humble small-dose aspirin was shown to also posses the ability to block the blockers and help the immune system ‘see’ and attack the cancer cells.
Who needs expensive drugs?