The equilibrium linking the intestinal microbiota, the intestinal epithelium, and the host immune system establishes host health and homeostasis, with perturbations of this balance resulting in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune immunopathologies. The mutualistic symbiosis between gut microbiota and host immunity raises the possibility that dysbiosis of the intestinal content also influences the outcome of cancer immunotherapy. Here, we present our recent findings that specific gut-resident bacteria determine the immunotherapeutic responses associated with CTLA-4 checkpoint blockade. This new evidence hints that interindividual differences in the microbiome may account for the significant heterogeneity in therapeutic and immunopathologic responses to immune checkpoint therapies. We discuss how this new understanding could improve the therapeutic coverage of immune checkpoint inhibitors, and potentially limit their immune-mediated toxicity, through the use of adjunctive “oncomicrobiotics” that indirectly promote beneficial immune responses through optimizing the gut microbiome. Cancer Res; 76(16); 1–6. ©2016 AACR.
- Received February 11, 2016.
- Revision received May 5, 2016.
- Accepted May 7, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.