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Gut microbiome clue to radiotherapy side-effects

Thursday October 3rd, 2019

Analysing gut bacteria can help identify patients at risk of suffering side-effects to the digestive system following radiotherapy, British researchers reported today.

Researchers found that low diversity of the microbiome was a strong predictor of patients who would suffer damage to the gut after treatment.

Doctors now propose trials to see if measures to improve microbiome diversity will improve protection for high-risk patients.

The study also found that high levels of certain bacteria, Clostridium IV, Roseburia and Phascolarctobacterium, also indicated susceptible patients.

Between 10% and 25% of radiotherapy patients suffer significant damage to the gut.

The work, undertaken at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Imperial College, London, is published in Clinical Cancer Research.

Uro-oncologist Professor David Dearnaley said: "Radiotherapy to the prostate and pelvic lymph nodes is an important way to manage cancer but it can result in damage to the gut and unpleasant side effects for the patient, which can often be long-lasting and quite severe.

"Our study is the first to show that gut bacteria have an important influence on how susceptible patients are to gastrointestinal side effects from radiotherapy. We still need to do further studies to confirm the role of good bacteria, but if we can identify patients at the highest risk of gut damage we could intervene to control, treat or even prevent the side effects of radiation.

"If microbial treatments such as faecal transplants are found to reduce damage, for example, it could substantially improve patients' quality of life."

Microbiota- and Radiotherapy-Induced Gastrointestinal Side-Effects (MARS) Study: A Large Pilot Study of the Microbiome in Acute and Late-Radiation Enteropathy. Clinical Cancer Research 1 October 2019

https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2019/09/06/1078-0432.CCR-19-0960

Tags: Cancer | Gastroenterology | UK News

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