Science

Researchers discover how gut bacteria can enhance prostate cancer growth

Researchers discover how gut b...
The research reports a novel link between the gut microbiome and prostate cancer
The research reports a novel link between the gut microbiome and prostate cancer
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The research reports a novel link between the gut microbiome and prostate cancer
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The research reports a novel link between the gut microbiome and prostate cancer

The role of gut bacteria in the progression of prostate cancer has been highlighted in a new study showing how the microbiome can influence hormone metabolism, which subsequently amplifies tumor growth and disrupts certain hormone treatments.

A number of links between the bacteria living in our gut and cancer have been discovered in recent years. From increasing one’s risk for bowel cancer to influencing the severity of chemotherapy side effects, researchers are only just beginning to delve into this complex relationship.

This new research focused on a common prostate cancer treatment called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Androgens are male hormones and cancerous cells in the prostate require these hormones to grow. So depriving a body of androgens can slow the growth, or even in some cases shrink, prostate tumors.

“The influence of the gut microbiome on cancer is a fascinating new area of science that we are just beginning to understand,” says Kristian Helin, from the Institute of Cancer Research in London. “These exciting findings are the first to unveil a mechanism through which the gut microbiome can drive prostate cancer growth and resistance to hormone therapy.”

Through a series of mouse experiments the study first demonstrated how gut bacteria can produce androgen hormones encouraging prostate cancer growth. The animal studies revealed certain types of bacteria respond to androgen deprivation therapy by producing similar metabolites, ultimately rendering the hormonal treatment ineffective.

The researchers then looked at two groups of human prostate cancer patients – men with hormone-resistant prostate cancer and men with prostate cancer responsive to ADT. When fecal samples from the men with hormone-resistant prostate cancer were transplanted into mice with prostate cancer, the researchers found those tumors developed hormone treatment resistance and grew faster.

The influence of the gut microbiome on cancer is a fascinating new area of science that we are just beginning to understand

Comparing microbiome profiles between the two cohorts revealed men with hormone-resistant prostate cancer had higher levels of Ruminococcus bacteria, while those responding well to ADT had high levels of Prevotella stercorea. Johann de Bono, a researcher working on the study, says one outcome from these findings is the potential development of a gut bacteria signature that could inform doctors as to the optimal therapy for certain prostate cancer patients.

“The next step will be to further explore how we apply these signatures in patients, with the aim of devising tests to pick out men who would benefit from fecal transplants, antibiotic therapy and other strategies to manipulate the microbiome,” says de Bono.

A number of potential therapies could hypothetically be deployed to improve ADT outcomes in light of these new findings. The researchers suggest antibiotics could be used to temporarily deplete populations of gut bacteria known to produce androgens, but de Bono says the ultimate outcome would be a probiotic or fecal transplant accompanying ADT to counteract any problematic bacterial species.

“In the long-term, our aim would be to produce a ‘yoghurt’ enriched with favorable bacteria to prevent resistance to treatment,” says de Bono.

The new study was published in the journal Science.

Source: The Institute of Cancer Research

6 comments
6 comments
CAVUMark
I knew IT. Once again gut bacteria is the culprit. From depression to ingrown toenails your gut biome is the answer/problem. One day we will have an answer.... I can feel it in my gut.
Robert E Grant
Would it be correct to assume that taking PROBIOTICS would entice The influence of the gut microbiome on cancer ?
akarp
@Robert: I don't think so...the garden analogy I have heard is that 'probiotics' are the 'seeds', and the "FOOD" we consume is the like the soil. If you have poor soil/water in a garden...no matter how many seeds you keep sowing, they just won't grow very well.
noteugene
Fecal transplant? Oh gross. I think I'd rather die.
Karmudjun
Nice article Rich, keep them coming!

As a physician let me dismiss all the tongue-in-cheek answers. No, it is not correct to assume taking probiotics would entice the influence of the gut microbiome toward cancer. And No, the GUT bacteria does not have any influence on ingrown toenails. Do people really think these things?

Our Microbiome - our gut flora - has a great impact on our well-being and our susceptibility to certain disease & mindsets. We've known for years that about half of the immune system is located in the gut, and those immune cells can positively or negatively influence our overall well-being. When antibiotics were developed, ti was a game changer for health from minor things like Staphococcal infections which could prove fatal to major things like TB which also could prove fatal. Now Staphococcus is ubiquitous - if you have an ingrown toenail the resulting wound could harbor bacteria - but a course of antibiotics is to avoid an infection, not to cure the ingrown toenail tendencies! And the destruction of gut flora isn't ever a great thing to cause so physicians learned early on to limit antibiotic use or deal with the effects: diarrhea, change in frequency, and even mild gastric distress without either. Since probiotics have come into play, the risk of wiping out gut bacteria leaving an open invitation to C.difficile is less of a concern. Although C.diff is a tough gut colonization to treat and fecal transplants do have a place in this disease as therapy.

You joke, but for physicians - knowing the difference between a resistant to hormone therapy cancer type and a responsive to hormone therapy cancer type is not a home run, no grand slam for our patients. This is the key, the gut biome can diminish the efficacy of potentially effective therapy - and replacing one major gut bacteria through probiotics or fecal transplant is a possibility to improve efficacy - not cure the prostate cancer.
NMorris
@ Robert E Grant It presumably depends which bacteria in the gut are enhanced by the specific probiotics. Presumably part of the future research will look at that, and look at other ways to induce the steroid sensitising bacteria and inhibit the steroid desensitising bacteria.