The Human Microbiome and Cancer

Abstract

Recent scientific advances have significantly contributed to our understanding of the complex connection between the microbiome and cancer. Our bodies are continuously exposed to microbial cells, both resident and transient, as well as their byproducts, including toxic metabolites. Circulation of toxic metabolites may contribute to cancer onset or progression at locations distant from where a particular microbe resides. Moreover, microbes may migrate to other locations in the human body and become associated with tumor development. Several case-control metagenomics studies suggest that dysbiosis in the commensal microbiota is also associated with inflammatory disorders and various cancer types throughout the body. Although the microbiome influences carcinogenesis through mechanisms independent of inflammation and immune system, the most recognizable link is between the microbiome and cancer via the immune system, as the resident microbiota plays an essential role in activating, training, and modulating the host immune response. Immunologic dysregulation is likely to provide mechanistic explanations as to how our microbiome influences cancer development and cancer therapies. In this review, we discuss recent developments in understanding the human gut microbiome’s relationship with cancer and the feasibility of developing novel cancer diagnostics based on microbiome profiles.

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