Microbiota in cancer development and treatment

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019 Jan;145(1):49-63. doi: 10.1007/s00432-018-2816-0. Epub 2018 Dec 12.


Purpose: Human microbiota comprises of a variety of organisms ranging from bacterial species to viruses, fungi, and protozoa which are present on the epidermal and mucosal barriers of the body. It plays a key role in health and survival of the host by regulation of the systemic functions. Its apparent functions in modulation of the host immune system, inducing carcinogenesis and regulation of the response to the cancer therapy through a variety of mechanisms such as bacterial dysbiosis, production of genotoxins, pathobionts, and disruption of the host metabolism are increasingly becoming evident.

Methods: Different electronic databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and Web of Science were searched for relevant literature which has been reviewed in this article.

Results: Characterization of the microbiome particularly gut microbiota, understanding of the host-microbiota interactions, and its potential for therapeutic exploitation are necessary for the development of novel anticancer therapeutic strategies with better efficacy and lowered off-target side effects.

Conclusion: In this review, the role of microbiota is explained in carcinogenesis, mechanisms of microbiota-mediated carcinogenesis, and role of gut microbiota in modulation of cancer therapy.

Keywords: Cancer therapy; Carcinogenesis; Gut microbiota; Microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Toxins / toxicity
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Dysbiosis
  • Host Microbial Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism
  • Virulence Factors / toxicity


  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Virulence Factors