Controlling liver cancer via the gut microbiome

2018

Challenge

The benign microbes living in our digestive systems, known as the gut microbiome, has recently been found to play an important role in the effectiveness of cancer treatments and the way the immune system responds to cancer. However, how precisely the microbiome exerts these important functions has remained unclear.

Advance

Tim Greten, M.D., and his IRP colleagues used antibiotics to wipe out the microorganisms in the guts of mice genetically predisposed to developing liver cancer and discovered that the animals developed fewer liver tumors. In addition, antibiotic treatment also reduced the likelihood that tumors implanted elsewhere in the body would metastasize to the animals’ livers.

Impact

These results provide a link between the gut microbiome, its metabolites, and immune responses in the liver. The team is planning a clinical trial to investigate whether antibiotic treatment in combination with drugs that augment immune system responses can reduce primary and metastatic liver tumors in patients.

Publications

Ma C, Han M, Heinrich B, Fu Q, Zhang Q, Sandhu M, Agdashian D, Terabe M, Berzofsky JA, Fako V, Ritz T, Longerich T, Theriot CM, McCulloch JA, Roy S, Yuan W, Thovarai V, Sen SK, Ruchirawat M, Korangy F, Wang XW, Trinchieri G, Greten TF. (2018). Gut microbiome-mediated bile acid metabolism regulates liver cancer via NKT cells. Science. May 25;360(6391). doi: 10.1126/science.aan5931.