The Cancer Microbiome: Distinguishing Direct and Indirect Effects Requires a Systemic View

Trends Cancer. 2020 Mar;6(3):192-204. doi: 10.1016/j.trecan.2020.01.004. Epub 2020 Feb 7.


The collection of microbes that live in and on the human body - the human microbiome - can impact on cancer initiation, progression, and response to therapy, including cancer immunotherapy. The mechanisms by which microbiomes impact on cancers can yield new diagnostics and treatments, but much remains unknown. The interactions between microbes, diet, host factors, drugs, and cell-cell interactions within the cancer itself likely involve intricate feedbacks, and no single component can explain all the behavior of the system. Understanding the role of host-associated microbial communities in cancer systems will require a multidisciplinary approach combining microbial ecology, immunology, cancer cell biology, and computational biology - a systems biology approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Drug Synergism
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Gastritis / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Mice
  • Microbiota* / drug effects
  • Microbiota* / radiation effects
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Oncogenic Viruses / pathogenicity
  • Probiotics
  • Stomach Neoplasms / etiology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Symbiosis
  • Tumor Virus Infections


  • Analgesics, Opioid