The microbiome could pave new cancer immunotherapy inroads for European biotechs, bolstered by preclinical findings that gut bacteria metabolites may help CAR-T cell therapies penetrate and kill solid tumors.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Philipps-University Marburg, University Hospital Würzburg, and the Leeds-based company 4D Pharma showed that metabolites produced by the gut bacteria Megasphaera massiliensis made CAR-T cell therapies better at targeting solid tumors in mice. 4D Pharma is developing a strain of the bacteria as a drug candidate and has previously shown it can induce cancer-killing T cells to shrink tumors in mice.
The research team focused on CD8 T cells, a type of immune cells that attack and kill viruses and tumors. In the paper, the team cultured M. massiliensis to produce two metabolites called pentanoate and butyrate. They then exposed a population of unmodified CD8 T cells that naturally target cancers to these metabolites in the lab, which boosted the tumor-killing prowess of these T cells in mouse models of melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
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