The Cancer Microbiome: Recent Highlights and Knowledge Gaps

Cancer Discov. 2021 Oct;11(10):2378-2395. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-0324. Epub 2021 Aug 16.


Knowledge of the human microbiome, which is likely a critical factor in the initiation, progression, and prognosis of multiple forms of cancer, is rapidly expanding. In this review, we focus on recent investigations to discern putative, causative microbial species and the microbiome composition and structure currently associated with procarcinogenesis and tumorigenesis at select body sites. We specifically highlight forms of cancer, gastrointestinal and nongastrointestinal, that have significant bacterial associations and well-defined experimental evidence with the aim of generating directions for future experimental and translational investigations to develop a clearer understanding of the multifaceted mechanisms by which microbiota affect cancer formation. SIGNIFICANCE: Emerging and, for some cancers, strong experimental and translational data support the contribution of the microbiome to cancer biology and disease progression. Disrupting microbiome features and pathways contributing to cancer may provide new approaches to improving cancer outcomes in patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Neoplasms*