Research jointly conducted by investigators at Institut Gustave Roussy, Inserm, Institut Pasteur and the INRA (French National Agronomic Research Institute) has led to a rather surprising discovery on the manner in which cancer chemotherapy treatments act more effectively with the help of the intestinal flora (also known as the intestinal microbiota). Indeed, the researchers have just shown that the efficacy of one of the molecules most often used in chemotherapy relies to an extent on its capacity to mobilize certain bacteria from the intestinal flora toward the bloodstream and lymph nodes. Once inside the lymph nodes, these bacteria stimulate fresh immune defenses which then enhance the body’s ability to fight the malignant tumor. Results of this work were published in the November 22, 2013 issue of Science. The intestinal microbiota is made up of 100,000 billion bacteria. It is a genuine organ, because the bacterial species that comprise it carry out functions crucial to our health, such as the elimination of substances that are foreign to the body (and potentially toxic), or keeping the pathogens that contaminate us at bay. They also ensure the degradation of ingested food, for better intestinal absorption and optimal metabolism. These millions of bacteria colonize the intestine from birth, and play a key role in the maturation of the immune defenses. However, the bacterial species that make up the intestinal microbiota vary from one individual to another, and the presence or absence of one or another bacterial species seems to influence the occurrence of some diseases, or, conversely, may protect us.
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