Can Prebiotics Help Protect Against Immunotherapy-Induced Colitis?
Newswise - Prebiotics are an intriguing potential approach to curbing some of the severe side effects that life-saving immunotherapy treatments can wreak on the gut, according to an analysis of recent studies and clinical trials by researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center.
Rather than trying to introduce beneficial strains of bacteria directly into a patient's digestive tract - via fecal transplant, enema or probiotic supplements, each of which have drawbacks - evidence points to prebiotics as a potentially safe and effective strategy. This would mean giving patients foods that are known to stimulate the growth of certain bacteria that can, in turn, produce larger amounts of protective metabolites.
"There are several advantages to a prebiotic approach," says hematology/oncology fellow Amy Chang, M.D., the lead author of a recent article on the topic in Trends in Cancer. "Compared to other methods, they're easy to administer, safe and inexpensive. One study showed that oat bran, for example, increased production of a metabolite called butyrate and resulted in improved symptoms for patients with bowel ailments similar to those seen in patients receiving immunotherapy."
Immune checkpoint inhibitors have emerged as a significant advance against a variety of cancer types. But severe side effects — especially inflammation and organ damage caused by the amplification of the body's immune response — can force treatments to be discontinued.
The researchers are preparing to open a pilot clinical trial to test a prebiotic dietary supplement in patients receiving immunotherapy.