For some years, research has focused on understanding the appropriate balance of good bacteria within the intestinal tract. Links between the onset of disease and gut dysbiosis are getting established with the hope of developing therapeutic interventions to halt the progression of the disease. Investigators have released data to describe how bacteria population in the pancreas increases largely in patients with pancreatic cancer to be dominated by species that block the immune system from attacking tumor cells.

Findings from a new study indicated that:

  • Removing bacteria from the pancreas and gut by treating mice with antibiotics reprogrammed immune cells and slowed the cancer growth to identify cancer cells.
  • Oral antibiotics increased the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors, a form of immunotherapy that had failed in the clinical trials of pancreatic cancer before to produce a strong antitumor shift in immunity.
  • Bacteria change the immune environment around the cancer cells to allow them to grow faster in some patients than others even when they have the same genetics.
  • In patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) – cancer that turns fatal within two years – pathogenic gut bacteria moves to the pancreas through the pancreatic duct.
  • Once in the pancreas, the abnormal microbiome releases cellular components that shut down the immune system to promote the growth of cancer.

The research was carried out to understand the immune suppression in pancreatic cancer and its reversal. Ongoing studies are meant to confirm the species of bacteria that can shut down the immune reaction to cancer cells and set the stage for new diagnostic tests that are bacteria-based, a combination of immunotherapy and antibiotics, and maybe for probiotics that prevent cancer in patients who are high-risk.