Immune therapy changes in gut microbiome shed light on effectiveness of treatment

Feb. 21, 2024
Image of intestinal villi with microbiota.

A study by CUNY SPH Professor Levi Waldron and colleagues investigated how gut microbiome changes in patients receiving immune therapy for advanced melanoma affect their treatment outcomes. By analyzing the gut bacteria of 175 patients, researchers found specific bacteria patterns that could predict whether patients would benefit from the therapy for longer than 12 months. They discovered that different bacteria were abundant before treatment began and after it started, and these bacteria levels were linked to how long patients lived without the cancer progressing. The findings suggest that understanding these bacteria changes could lead to better, personalized treatments to improve immune therapy effectiveness.

“The gut microbiome is intimately linked to the immune system, and antibiotic treatment prior to treatment worsens outcomes of cancer immunotherapy, so there is a strong premise for the idea that the gut microbiome impacts immunotherapy, says Waldron. “This study is exciting because it replicates some important preliminary evidence, while adding strength and detail with its higher-resolution microbiome profiling and longitudinal design. The next major step will be randomized controlled trials to establish whether modifying the gut microbiome in the ways suggested by these observational studies can yield better immunotherapy outcomes.”

Björk, J.R., Bolte, L.A., Maltez Thomas, A. et al. Longitudinal gut microbiome changes in immune checkpoint blockade-treated advanced melanoma. Nat Med (2024).