Can Probiotics Protect Humans From Lethal Chemotherapy?Our newsletter recently reported that probiotics slow growth of cancerous tumors and improve outcomes of bone marrow transplant patients fighting blood cancer.

For Part 2 of this series on probiotics and cancer, we take a closer look at the role that gut health and probiotics play in strengthening immunity during chemotherapy.

In many cases, chemotherapy is a necessary tool many medical experts use to fight cancer that harms as often as it helps. Research shows that good gut health, promoted by taking a probiotic containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, may make a difference in protecting the health of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Good Gut Health Protects Chemotherapy Patients

A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry uncovered a biological mechanism that protects the gastrointestinal tracts of mice given lethal doses of chemotherapy.

High doses of chemotherapy are often the only treatment for patients with late-stage metastasized cancer. This poses a great challenge to patients and doctors as higher dosages can kill healthy cells before eliminating a tumor, says Dr. Jian-Guo Geng, associate professor at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Geng’s team of researchers identified a key protein in the intestinal stem cells of mice (Robo 1) that binds with certain proteins that accelerated intestinal regeneration and repair of their gut, thus protecting their overall health.

The extra stem cells produced by this process protected their digestive tracts, enabling test animals to consume more nutrients, prevent bacterial toxins from entering the bloodstream and withstand higher doses of chemotherapy.

Between 50-75 percent of the mice treated with the Robo 1 molecule survived lethal doses of chemotherapy. All of the mice that didn’t receive the molecule died.

Probiotics May Treat Common Chemotherapy Symptoms

A review of evidence in a 2011 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests probiotics may provide benefits for the treatment of mucositis, one of the more common and harsher side effects of chemotherapy.

Mucositis is a painful inflammation and ulceration process that affects the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract and oral cavity of patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Although there are no established treatment plans for mucositis (due to the multiple factors that contribute to it) researchers found probiotic-based therapies can offer good health benefits, including the protection of gut bacteria and the inhibition of inflammatory cytokines (proteins that help in cell signaling).

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