The Role of the Microbiome in Cancer and Therapy Efficacy: Focus on Lung Cancer

Anticancer Res. 2020 Sep;40(9):4807-4818. doi: 10.21873/anticanres.14484.


The microbiome is extremely important for human health; more recently its role in the context of cancer became clear. Microbial effects range from enhancing cancer immunity and cancer therapy efficacy, to promoting cancer progression and inhibiting treatment efficacy. These broad implications led researchers to investigate these specific interactions, as well as how modification of the microbiome can improve cancer survival and treatment efficacy. While these interactions are better established for cancers such as gastric cancer, they are far less understood in others. As non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up the majority of lung cancer cases, and is among the top causes of cancer deaths worldwide, understanding the mechanisms by which the microbiome may impact progression and treatment is crucial to improve patient survival and treatment response. A literature review was conducted to reveal the crosslink between human microbiome and lung cancer. This includes immune priming, induction of pro- or anti-tumor response, and the local effects of intra-tumoral microbiota. Overall, this is a complex multifactorial relationship, and there are broad implications as to how this knowledge can improve cancer treatment. Solutions include manipulation of the microbiome using probiotics, bacterial vaccines and antibiotics. Bacteria biomarkers may also be used as a diagnostic tool.

Keywords: Microbiome; cancer therapy; carcinogenesis; lung cancer; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / microbiology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation
  • Lung Neoplasms / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Microbiota / drug effects
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents