Fecal Microbiota Transplants Help Patients with Advanced Melanoma Respond to Immunotherapy, Science Article Reports

For patients with cancers that do not respond to immunotherapy drugs, adjusting the composition of microorganisms in the intestines—known as the gut microbiome—through the use of stool, or fecal, transplants may help some of these individuals respond to the immunotherapy drugs, a new study suggests. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Cancer Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, conducted the study in collaboration with investigators from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh. In the study, some patients with advanced melanoma who initially did not respond to treatment with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, a type of immunotherapy, did respond to the drug after receiving a transplant of fecal microbiota from a patient who had responded to the drug. The results suggest that introducing certain fecal microorganisms into a patient’s colon may help the patient respond to drugs that enhance the immune system’s ability to recognize and kill tumor cells. The findings were published in the February 5, 2021 issue of Science. The article is titled “Fecal Microbiota Transplant Overcomes Resistance to Anti–PD-1 Therapy in Melanoma Patients” (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/371/6529/595). “In recent years, immunotherapy drugs called PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors have benefited many patients with certain types of cancer, but we need new strategies to help patients whose cancers do not respond,” said study co-leader Giorgio Trinchieri, MD, Chief of the Laboratory of Integrative Cancer Immunology in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. “Our study is one of the first to demonstrate in patients that altering the composition of the gut microbiome can improve the response to immunotherapy.
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