Immunotherapy is seen as a promising new treatment for cancer. Unlike the scorched-earth premise of chemotherapy and radiation, immunotherapy tries to get the person’s own immune system to take care of the cancer.
It is really quite logical. When the immune systems fails to prevent cancer, it can occur. Most natural and alternative therapies follow this line of thinking. If the immune system can take care of the cancer, problem solved.
Immunotherapy is only used with some types of cancer at this time. While it can be very effective for some people, it often doesn’t work for others. This has been a puzzle.
Researchers have now discovered that the microbiome of the cancer patient is playing a role as to how effective the treatment will be.
One study, published in the journal Science, looked at 249 cancer patients receiving immunotherapy for lung, kidney and bladder cancer. They found that those who had taken antibiotics during their treatment for whatever reason, saw their tumours grow.
The depletion of gut bacteria by antibiotics is well-established.
Researchers have also found one particular strain of bacteria, Arkermmansia muciniphila in 69% of patients who responded to the immunotherapy as compared only one third of people who did not. Feeding this strain of bacteria to mice boosted their response to immunotherapy.
A second study from Texas, again published in Science, looked at the microbiome of 112 patients with advanced melanoma. Those who had a richer and more diverse colony of bacteria were the ones that responded to the immunotherapy.
They also found that those who responded well to immunotherapy, had different compositions of bacteria families.
It is too soon yet to be more specific to help everyone who has cancer have a better outcome but this definitely shows promise.
We are learning more information every day about gut bacteria and its connection to everything but it will be awhile before we have specific answers. In the mean time, we can support our gut and improve diversity by eating a wide range of whole foods.
Avoid fast and refined foods. Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, fermented foods, organic dairy, clean meats and fish. Think of the traditional eating habits of our ancestors. They knew how to feed the gut.