Gut Microbiota and Cancer of the Host: Colliding Interests

  • Gyorgy BaffyEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1219)


Cancer develops in multicellular organisms from cells that ignore the rules of cooperation and escape the mechanisms of anti-cancer surveillance. Tumorigenesis is jointly encountered by the host and microbiota, a vast collection of microorganisms that live on the external and internal epithelial surfaces of the body. The largest community of human microbiota resides in the gastrointestinal tract where commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms interact with the intestinal barrier and gut mucosal lymphoid tissue, creating a tumor microenvironment in which cancer cells thrive or perish. Aberrant composition and function of the gut microbiota (dysbiosis) has been associated with tumorigenesis by inducing inflammation, promoting cell growth and proliferation, weakening immunosurveillance, and altering food and drug metabolism or other biochemical functions of the host. However, recent research has also identified several mechanisms through which gut microbiota support the host in the fight against cancer. These mechanisms include the use of antigenic mimicry, biotransformation of chemotherapeutic agents, and other mechanisms to boost anti-cancer immune responses and improve the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy. Further research in this rapidly advancing field is expected to identify additional microbial metabolites with tumor suppressing properties, map the complex interactions of host-microbe ‘transkingdom network’ with cancer cells, and elucidate cellular and molecular pathways underlying the impact of specific intestinal microbial configurations on immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy.


Holobiont Immune checkpoint inhibitors Dysbiosis Biofilm Butyrate paradox Intestinal barrier Transkingdom network Fecal microbiota transplantation 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MedicineVA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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