A new study suggests that doctors may one day be able to fight cancer by analyzing the bacteria in patients’ guts and prescribing probiotics to adjust levels and fight cancer. The research published online in the journal PLOS ONE, offers evidence that anti-inflammatory "health beneficial" gut bacteria can slow or stop the development of some types of cancer.
Using probiotics to fight cancer this way would not be invasive “and rather easy to do,” the study’s lead author Robert Schiestl, PhD, professor of pathology, environmental health sciences and radiation oncology at UCLA, said in a university release published on medicalxpress.com. Schiestl in his team found that in mice, the bacterium Lactobacillus johnsonii 456 (the same stuff that makes yogurt and sauerkraut) reduced gene damage and significantly reduced inflammation, which plays a key role in cancer and many other diseases.
"These findings lend credence to the notion that manipulating microbial composition could be used as an effective strategy to prevent or alleviate cancer susceptibility," the researchers write in PLOS ONE. " In the future, it is our hope that the use of probiotics-containing [supplements] would be a potential chemopreventive for normal humans, while the same type of microbiota would decrease tumor incidence in cancer susceptible populations."
As more research reveals more of the microbes’ health-promoting potential, probiotics remain the fastest-growing functional food category in the world.