Scientists are experimenting with a combination of fecal transplants and immunotherapy as a possible measure of treatment. The research is carried out by a team of multidisciplinary experts at the Lawson Health Research Institute.
According to experts, Immunotherapy drugs help in reviving a person’s immune system in order to destroy cancer. These drugs are especially effective in improving the survival conditions of patients facing melanoma, and are known to be effective among at least 40 to 50 percent of patients.
According to Dr. Jeremy Burton, the gut microbiome plays a substantial role in building immunity since an early age. This fact led the researchers to consider the possibility of fecal transplants.
Fecal transplants means collecting stool from a healthy donor and the process of preparing it in a lab, in order to transplant it into a patient. The goal is however to transplant the donor’s microbiome, in order to help colonize healthy bacteria in the patient’s gut.
The research team is known to be the first in Canada to study the use of fecal transplants in order to work on a cancer patient’s microbiome and to improve the response of the transplants to anti-PD1 immunotherapy drugs.
The study used 20 melanoma patients from the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). Reports suggest, these patients will further undergo a fecal transplant at St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is a part of St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
These patients will be further screened for noticeable changes to cancer, immune system, microbiome, and to overall health. Through this experiment, researchers hope to study the treatment combination, in addition to studying patient outcomes.
“We’re one of the first in the world to study fecal transplants in cancer patients. This study is as cutting-edge as it gets with potential applications for multiple disease sites,” reports Dr. Saman Maleki, a Lawson Associate Scientist and a specialist in cancer immunology. “With experts in microbiology, infectious disease, cancer and immunology, our institute is well-positioned to carry this forward.”
Dr. Michael Silverman, Lawson Associate Scientist and Chief of Infectious Disease at St. Joseph’s and LHSC also quoted the potential of fecal transplants in saving countless lives. They are also using this therapy for the treatment of other conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) and cancer treatment toxicity. However, stool donors are necessary for expanding this research.