Could a faecal transplant save your life? This is the new line of research being pursued by an increasing number of cancer specialists around the world, as scientists attempt to find new ways to utilise the microbiome – the vast colony of micro-organisms that live within our gut – to tackle deadly diseases.
Last month, scientists at King’s College London (KCL) published the largest study so far showing that patients with the skin cancer melanoma were much more likely to respond to life-saving immunotherapy if their microbiomes contained certain healthy bacterial species.
It was a particularly landmark finding, as oncologists have long been seeking ways to boost treatment responses in melanoma patients, an aggressive cancer that can prove fatal if it spreads to other organs. While immunotherapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors can stop melanoma in its tracks, they only work in less than 50 per cent of patients.