Microbes in gynecologic cancers: Causes or consequences and therapeutic potential

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Seminars in cancer biology


Gynecologic cancers, starting in the reproductive organs of females, include cancer of cervix, endometrium, ovary commonly and vagina and vulva rarely. The changes in the composition of microbiome in gut and vagina affect immune and metabolic signaling of the host cells resulting in chronic inflammation, angiogenesis, cellular proliferation, genome instability, epithelial barrier breach and metabolic dysregulation that may lead to the onset or aggravated progression of gynecologic cancers. While microbiome in gynecologic cancers is just at horizon, certain significant microbiome signature associations have been found. Cervical cancer is accompanied with high loads of human papillomavirus, Fusobacteria and Sneathia species; endometrial cancer is reported to have presence of Atopobium vaginae and Porphyromonas species and significantly elevated levels of Proteobacteria and Firmicutes phylum bacteria, with Chlamydia trachomatis, Lactobacillus and Mycobacterium reported in ovarian cancer. Balancing microbiome composition in gynecologic cancers has the potential to be used as a therapeutic target. For example, the Lactobacillus species may play an important role in blocking adhesions of incursive pathogens to vaginal epithelium by lowering the pH, producing bacteriocins and employing competitive exclusions. The optimum or personalized balance of the microbiota can be maintained using pre- and probiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantations loaded with specific bacteria. Current evidence strongly suggest that a healthy microbiome can train and trigger the body's immune response to attack various gynecologic cancers. Furthermore, microbiome modulations can potentially contribute to improvements in immuno-oncology therapies.

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ePub ahead of print