Phase 1 Trial Will Evaluate Combination of Fecal Transplant & Immunotherapy in Treating Melanoma

According to an August 16, 2019 press release, a multidisciplinary team at Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada is exploring whether fecal transplants can improve outcomes in melanoma patients treated with immunotherapy. Immunotherapy drugs stimulate a person's immune system to attack and destroy cancer. While these immunotherapy drugs can significantly improve survival outcomes in those with melanoma, they are only effective in 40 to 50 per cent of patients. Preliminary research has suggested that the human microbiome - the diverse collection of microbes in our body - may play a role in whether or not a patient responds. "The gut microbiome helps establish immunity from an early age. It makes sense that a healthy gut could improve response to immunotherapy," explains Dr. Jeremy Burton, a Lawson Scientist who specializes in human microbiome research. "This led us to consider the potential of fecal transplants." Fecal transplants involve collecting stool from a healthy donor, preparing it in a lab, and transplanting it to the patient. The goal is to transplant the donor's microbiome so that healthy bacteria will colonize in the patient's gut. In a phase I clinical trial, the research team at Lawson is the first in Canada to study the use of fecal transplants to alter a cancer patient's microbiome and improve their response to anti-PD1 immunotherapy drugs. Research participants will be 20 melanoma patients recruited from the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) in London, Ontario, Canada. Each patient will undergo a fecal transplant at St. Joseph's Hospital, a part of St. Joseph's Health Care London, followed by immunotherapy at LRCP. The transplant will consist of taking a number of specially-prepared oral capsules.
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