Role of Gut Microbiome in Metastatic Melanoma Patients on Immunotherapy

Source: Cancer Network, June 2017

As part of our coverage of the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, held June 2–6 in Chicago, we are joined by Jennifer Wargo, MD, an associate professor in the department of surgical oncology and genomic medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Dr. Wargo’s laboratory studies the spectrum of cancer patient responses to targeted and immunotherapies to understand factors that facilitate responses to treatment and also to track and understand resistance. At the ASCO meeting, Dr. Wargo discussed her recent work on the effect of the gut microbiome on responses to anti–PD-1 antibodies.

Cancer Network: Dr. Wargo, your study examined the role of the gut microbiome in responses to anti–PD-1 antibodies. Can you define the gut microbiome for us and talk about what is known about how it may modulate responses to immune checkpoint blockade?

Dr. Wargo: In our bodies, we have trillions of bacteria that outnumber normal cells by up to 10 to 1, and the largest numbers of these bacteria are actually in the gut. There is certainly a growing appreciation of the role of the gut microbiome in health and disease, and it’s implicated in a number of different diseases, and more recently it’s been implicated in responses to immune checkpoint blockade. Most of these studies to date have been in mice, including some very elegant investigations by Dr. Tom Gajewski and Dr. Laurence Zitvogel, which were published in Science in 2015, showing that if you modulate the gut microbiome in mice, you can actually enhance the response to immunotherapy.

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