How a bacterium can make immunotherapy work

How a bacterium can make immunotherapy work

A strain of Enterococcus breaks down the gut mucosal lining to produce glycoproteins which boost the immune system and make checkpoint inhibitor drugs work better.

Research by Professor Howard Hang of the Scripps Institute in La Jolla could actually bring ‘Checkpoint Inhibitor’ immunotherapy drugs to life.

There are two types of Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drugs:

i) The PD-1 immunotherapy drugs that unblock the inhibition on your T-cells, that then can attack the cancer

ii) PD-L1 immunotherapy drugs that unblock the checkpoint inhibitor that hides the cancer cell from attack

At CANCERactive we have told you how to make PD-1 immunotherapy work better; and we have told you about glycoproteins - in mother’s milk, medicinal mushrooms and the gut mucosal lining that can make PD-L1 drugs work better. See links to both at the end of the article.

Gut microbiome can improve immunotherapy

Hang’s team have been focussed on the gut microbiome to improve the success of immunotherapy drugs. They first observed in animals that sometimes PD-L1 Checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drugs worked well, but often they didn’t.

A species that had been considered as possibly harmful is enriched in patients that respond better to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies,” said Hang. His studies, which started in his previous job at the Rockefeller University, focussed on the family or genus Enterococcus. Like any family, the members or strains may be good or bad. Some are used as probiotics but others are pathogenic and even antibiotic-resistant.

Hang’s team found that several species of Enterococcus possess an enzyme which they secrete to break down the gut mucosal lining. Small particles - Glycoproteins or peptidoglycans are released and prompt an immune response boosting the attack on the cancer cell. Glycoproteins are known to clean up the surfaces of cancer cells exposing them to T-cell attackers.

Currently Hang and fellow researcher Mathew Griffin PhD, are working with outside companies to synthesise the Enterococcus protein so that they need not worry about which strains are good and which are bad. They just want to make PD-L1 immunotherapy drugs work better.

Go to: How to make your immunotherapy drugs work properly

Go to: Glycoproteins - the coming cancer cure

Go to: The checkmate trial lives up to its name



  1. Enterococcus peptidoglycan remodeling promotes immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy,” Science, 27 August 2021. Matthew E. Griffin Juliel Espinosa, Jessica L. Becker and Howard C. Hang in collaboration with Jyoti K. Jha and Gary R. Fanger at Rise Therapeutics.

  Approved by the Medical Board. Click Here 


2021 Research
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