Redrawing therapeutic boundaries: microbiota and cancer

by Jonathan Sholl, Gregory D.Sepich-Poore, Rob Knight & Thomas Pradeu

Published: November 26, 2021 in Trends in Cancer


The unexpected roles of the microbiota in cancer challenge explanations of carcinogenesis that focus on tumor-intrinsic properties. Most tumors contain bacteria and viruses, and the host’s proximal and distal microbiota influence both cancer incidence and therapeutic responsiveness. Continuing the history of cancer–microbe research, these findings raise a key question: to what extent is the microbiota relevant for clinical oncology? We approach this by critically evaluating three issues: how the microbiota provides a predictive biomarker of cancer growth and therapeutic responsiveness, the microbiota’s causal role(s) in cancer development, and how therapeutic manipulations of the microbiota improve patient outcomes in cancer. Clarifying the conceptual and empirical aspects of the cancer-associated microbiota can orient future research and guide its implementation in clinical oncology.

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