Radiotherapy and gut bacteria

2014 Research

Damage to your gut bacteria by orthodox medicine is a hot topic. Your health has now been shown to depend upon your microbiome – particularly the flora in your gut. Indeed, it seems from the latest American research in The Human Microbiome Project that you cannot get better until your little friends regain their health.

Back in 2011, in Cancer Watch, we covered research from Washington University School of Medicine showing that taking probiotics could actually protect the gut lining from the damaging effects of radiotherapy when it was administered near to the gut area.

It seems that gut bacteria (and probiotics) can help protect delicate gut membranes. Now researchers, worried about these damaging effects of radiotherapy on the microbial gut flora, are launching a project to see if there is a way to type individuals according to the makeup of their gut flora, and thus see if some people are more susceptible to the dangerous side-effects of radiotherapy for bowel cancer, prostate cancer and others.

Professor David Dearnaley, of the Institute of Cancer Research in London is one of the project leaders. "In the long term we could develop a range of new treatments for many different conditions."

"Men and women have a startling amount of bacteria in their stomachs and intestines," said Dearnaley. "There is 1.4kg of bacteria in the average human gut. That is roughly the same weight as the human brain. Indeed, you can think of your microbiome as an extra organ inside your body and its behaviour can have distinct consequences."

Gut bacteria and microbes play a key role in maintaining health. They boost the activity of immune systems and make it easier for an individual to tackle invading organisms.

Gut bacteria also play a key role in breaking down food as is shown in the forthcoming book by Chris Woollams, ‘The Secret Source of your Good Health’.

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Working with the institute’s scientists and with researchers at the Royal Marsden hospital in Surrey, Dearnaley has launched a project which will try to profile the bacteria in a number of prostate cancer patients before they begin their radiotherapy.  Cancer Watch has covered research in the past showing that taking probiotics improves the success of radiotherapy and limits side-effects in certain cases.

2014 Research
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