Stool transplants found to help restore gut bacteria in cancer patients


Stool transplants have been shown to be an effective and safe way to restore the gut bacteria in cancer patients who have been treated with intense antibiotics.

A study by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in the US has found that autologous fecal microbiota transplantation (auto-FMT) restored beneficial gut bacteria to near baseline levels within days.

This restored patients’ digestive, immune and other essential functions too – and is a rapid improvement on standard care, which patients can take weeks to recover from.

It could provide significant benefits to people who have received allogenic hematopoietic cell transplantation, which often involves a family member donor giving stem cells to aid bone marrow production of blood cells and immune function to tackle cancer.

This form of transplant requires powerful antibiotics to prevent the bacterial infections in the stem cell recipients, however, this can also destroy beneficial bacteria which protect the body.

The cancer patients in the study provided their own stool samples which were frozen and stored before the cell transplantation procedure.

The Human Microbiome Project, launched by NIH in 2007, provided a glimpse of the microbial diversity of healthy humans and is exploring the possible relationship between human diseases and the microbiome. Credit: Jonathan Bailey, NHGRI
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Stool transplants help the microbial diversity of healthy humans. Pic: Jonathan Bailey, NHGRI

“Weeks later, when physicians confirmed that the transplanted cells were growing, they assessed the status of the patients’ beneficial gut bacteria,” the study explained.

“The first 25 patients who lacked known beneficial bacteria were enrolled into the study and randomly assigned to the different treatment groups: 14 received auto-FMT by enema and 11 received standard-of-care.”

The study found that the “patients who received auto-FMT consistently regained bacterial diversity, composition and function; recovery of beneficial bacteria in the 11 control patients was delayed.”

“This important study suggests that clinical intervention using auto-FMT can safely reverse the disruptive effects of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment,” says NIAID’s director Dr Anthony Fauci.

“If validated in larger studies, this approach may prove to be a relatively simple way to quickly restore a person’s healthy microbiome following intensive antimicrobial therapy.”

The report, which is published in Science Translational Medicine, provides support for the value of auto-FMT as a regular procedure.

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