Thursday 2 October 2014

Fecal Transplants And Cancer

Fecal transplantation is probably one of the most disgusting medical procedures in existence. It literally means taking a sample of fecal material (poop, in other words) from one person and transplanting it into another. Like I said, it's a pretty disgusting idea, but one that is receiving increasing attention. The more we learn about the role of our gut bacteria the more we understand that having a healthy gut ecosystem is essential to health. Gut bacteria play a big part in how we digest our food, with possibly a role in causing obesity, and in the development of our immune systems. It's the latter that has been explored the most in inflammatory bowel diseases - which is where fecal transplants have been used to treat conditions like Crohn's Disease and similar conditions.

When it comes to cancer there is also a possible role for our gut bacteria. I have previously written about the study that showed mice with a genetic predispostion to cancer and fed with a probiotic had fewer tumours and later onset of disease than similar mice not fed probiotic. Note that these mice were developing breast cancers, not colon, so the effect of feeding probiotics was systemic, not just restricted to the colon. This is really a stunning result and worth taking note of. But I think there is room to take this further...

There is now strong evidence that our gut bacteria are essential for a good response to chemotherapy - again this has been something of a surprising result, but the evidence is that without the right gut bacteria chemotherapy response is severely blunted. And we also know that having the wrong bacteria - gut dysbiosis in the terminology - is also associated with the development of colon cancer.

Where am I going with this? Well, if we know that fecal transplants can be effective in inflammatory bowel conditions, and we know that gut dysbiosis is a factor in colorectal and other cancers, then shouldn't we now be considering looking at fecal transplants as a possible cancer treatment?

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