The two-year agreement is to focus on the microbiome’s role in chemotherapy, specifically its influence on its effectiveness and how response rates can be improved by decreasing gut inflammation.
“This is a perfect fit for such a project with Prof. Martin Blaser’s extensive knowledge of the microbiome and its complex interactions with human physiology and more particularly with the human immune system,” says Sébastien Guéry, HMV leader at DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences.
“HMV was launched in 2017 to spearhead the development of next generation microbiome solutions for improved health and wellness.
“We believe there is a high unmet medical need to improve the quality of care of patients undergoing chemotherapy and potentially improve the benefit/risk ratio of such interventions.”
The agreement is set to use insights garnered from previous work that demonstrate that oral intake of oncology drugs can induce enterocolitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract.
The condition specifically affects the inner linings of both the small intestine and the colon, causing several symptoms that include vomiting and diarrhoea amongst others.
With the increasing use of multiple, new and aggressive chemotherapeutic agents for a number of tumour types, the prospect of increased cases of enterocolitis is all too real.
As such, the agreement takes the view that administration of beneficial microbes may lead to improving overall patient care and comfort while undergoing cancer treatment.
Improving cancer therapies
“We are delighted to further develop our relationship with DuPont for the benefit of human health,” says Martin Blaser, director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine.
“The interaction of the microbiome with cancer is an important frontier, with important leads already. Our project is aimed to discover new ways to improve cancer therapies.”
While much of this research takes place in academic circles, industry has taken a keen interest in the microbiome’s role in cancer particularly as latest figures suggest a rise in cases, driven by more people living to an older age and lifestyle changes occurring in the developing world.
Companies active in this space includes US-based Vedanta Biosciences, which last year isolated 11 bacterial strains from healthy human donor faeces in order to investigate their ability to enhance antimicrobial or antitumour immunity in mouse models.
Closer to home UK-based 4D Pharma, a pharmaceutical company currently investigating the effects of its live biotherapeutic MRx0518.
The candidate contains a proprietary strain of the Enterococcus bacterium species, which may have anti-cancer and immune system modulating effects in patients, who have undergone the removal of solid tumours.
In January this year, 4D pharma also teamed up with academia, this time with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer to conduct a study evaluating MRx0518’s efficacy in patients with resectable pancreatic cancer.
Other firms active in this research area include Israeli-based BiomX, which is developing both natural and engineered phage therapies that target bacteria naturally present in tumours.
The aim is to convert these ‘cold’ tumours to ‘hot’ by releasing an immunostimulatory ‘payload’ and eradicate bacteria such as Fusobacterium nucleatum that appear to protect the tumour.
“Using synthetic biology, we can create phage therapies that exploit the co-existence of specific bacteria within cancerous tumours to induce a focused anti-tumour immune response,” explains Jonathan Solomon, BiomX’s CEO.
“Moreover, these phage therapies will potentially boost the effect of immunotherapies, which are spearheading the future of cancer treatment.
“These results show early promise for our colorectal cancer program and for future targeting of bacteria in additional cancer types."