Research indicates probiotics may provide anti-cancer benefits

The review was published in Cancers in December 2020

A recent research review from the Lodz University of Technology in Poland has examined the use of probiotics to prevent or help treat cancer.

The researchers note that “an imbalance in the gut microbiome can lead to pro-inflammatory immune responses and the initiation of disease processes, including cancer”. They point to factors such as diet, stress or medication as potential causes for imbalanced intestinal flora, which can result in proinflammatory immune responses in the digestive system.

Correlation between dietary supplementation with Lactobacillus and a lower risk of colorectal cancer was first noted in 1980, and since then, multiple in vitro studies have suggested probiotics can modulate the proliferation of human colonic cancer cells. Additionally, studies on animal models have indicated probiotics may have anti-tumour effects, with “promising” potential for clinical application, the reviewers say. Several probiotics have been shown to significantly inhibit the development of colon cancer in rats or mice, and in different studies, probiotics induced apoptosis in mice.

The researchers argue, due to the antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects demonstrated in the studies reviewed, a probiotics regimen may be valuable in “cancer prevention and as an adjuvant treatment during anticancer chemotherapy”. Based on the clinical studies, the reviewers suggest such a regime could be effective in preventing or mitigating the progression of colorectal, liver, breast, bladder, colon and cervical cancer. They also suggest probiotics may be able to play a role in reducing post-operative infection risk, in addition to decreasing the risk of post-operative intestinal disorders including diarrhoea.

The reviewers note that, despite the promising results observed in the research, caution should be applied owing to the fact that most of the tumours examined were artificially induced by chemical agents, as opposed to a natural process of carcinogenesis. They suggest continued research on the anti-carcinogenic properties of probiotics should be done to identify specific strains and their viability for treatment.

The research can be accessed here.