Effect of radiotherapy on the gut microbiome in pediatric cancer patients: a pilot study

PeerJ. 2019 Sep 23:7:e7683. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7683. eCollection 2019.


The incidence of pediatric cancer is lower than that of adult cancer worldwide. However, the former has detrimental side effects on the health of individuals, even after the cancer is cured, due to the impact of treatment on development. Recently, correlations have been made between the gut microbiome and cancer in several studies but only on adult participants. There is always a complication of dealing with pediatric cancer treatment protocols because they usually include a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and intensive prophylactic antibiotics. In the current study, a pilot study was conducted to analyze ten fecal samples from three pediatric cancer patients, suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma near their pelvic region, and two healthy individuals. A correlation between microbial composition and response to treatment was reported, in which the responders had generally a lower microbial diversity compared to non-responders. In addition, nucleotide changes and deletions in the tested 16S rRNA sequences post radiotherapy were detected. Despite the small sample size used in the experiments due to the uncommon rhabdomyosarcoma in children, the results can help in understanding the influence of radiotherapy on the gut microbiome in pediatric cancer patients. More work with larger sample size and different cancer types need to be conducted to understand the influence of radiotherapy on gut microbiome to mitigate the deleterious impact of radiation on treated children.

Keywords: 16S rRNA; Chemoradiotherapy; Gut microbiome; Mutations; Pediatric cancer; Radiotherapy; Response to treatment; Rhabdomyosarcoma.

Grants and funding

This study was supported by Zewail City for Science and Technology. Nourhan Sahly received institutional fellowship award from the American University in Cairo (AUC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.