Cancer: microbiota and the effectiveness of chemotherapy


Given that first-line cancer treatments have variable effectiveness depending on the patient, British researchers successfully proved that in nematodes (roundworms, of which many species are parasites), the effectiveness of fluoropyrimidines in colorectal cancer was influenced by the host’s microbiota. Their experimental model also allowed them to identify the key biological processes that link bacterial pathways to the effectiveness of the medication. In this study, the authors explain that bacteria in the microbiota can reinforce or suppress the effects of fluoropyrimidines, via interconversion of the medication involving vitamins B6 and B9, and the metabolism of ribonucleotides in the bacteria. Moreover, disruptions observed in bacterial deoxyribonucleotides amplified the autophagy induced by the fluoropyrimidines (primarily 5-fluorouracil) as well as host cell death. This study could pave the way for the identification of bacteria in the microbiota of humans that are also involved in the metabolism of anticancer molecules and, eventually, help design a probiotic asupplementation scheme that would be used together with certain anticancer treatments.


Scott TA. Et al. Host-Microbe Co-metabolism Dictates Cancer Drug Efficacy in C. elegans. Cell. 2017 Apr 20;169(3):442-456.e18.