Can a better gut microbiome help you fight cancer?

This is from back in November, but remains compelling and worth a post, as you know I’m always fascinated by science and the human microbiome. Washington Post:

Cancer researchers think they have found an explanation for why some cancer drugs don’t always work. The answer — and a possible solution — may be found in the gut microbiome.

The composition of a person’s gut microbiome — which consists of trillions of bacteria and other microbes — appears to influence whether a ground-breaking cancer treatment called immunotherapy is successful in some patients. Scientists have found that patients who harbor certain gut bacteria have better responses to immunotherapy than patients who lack them.

Even more stunning: scientists believe that giving patients a fiber-rich diet of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains to nourish the microbiome might improve the odds that the cancer treatment is effective…
Scientists have long known that the microbiome is a crucial part of our immune systems. By some estimates, between 60 and 80 percent of the immune cells in our bodies reside in the gut.

But only recently did it become apparent that these microbes might affect cancer outcomes. Scientists at the University of Chicago discovered that mice with a strain of gut bacteria known as Bifidobacterium had a stronger immune response against melanoma tumors than mice who lacked the bacteria. They found that giving Bifidobacterium to the deficient mice slowed tumor growth. What’s more, combining the bacteria with an immunotherapy drug known as a checkpoint inhibitor nearly abolished the tumors.

Human studies showed that these checkpoint inhibitors were also more effective in cancer patients whose guts had more microbial diversity, as well as a greater abundance of several microbes, including Akkermansia muciniphila and Bifidobacterium longum. Patients with low levels of these and other microbes were less likely to respond to the treatment…

“We don’t want to say that the microbiome is the only mechanism,” said Zarour, the co-leader of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “But we have learned that the microbiome could definitely be responsible for the inability of some patients to respond.”

Zarour said the goal of his work is to figure out which gut microbes are involved and then package them into pills that patients could take to alter their microbiomes. “The endgame is not fecal transplants,” he added. “Giving patients a cocktail of probiotics might be the best option.”

Obviously, a long way to go with this research, but I remain optimistic that learning more about the human microbiome will lead to genuinely important advances in medicine. 

There are no Republican House “moderates”

In all the nonsense around the recent speaker craziness, an ongoing point of frustration was the media referring to McCarthy supporters as “moderate.”  I’m sorry, but not being as insane or nihilistic as Matt Gaetz does not make you “moderate.”  There’s nobody in the House GOP caucus anywhere close to a meaningful use of the term moderate.  Jennifer Rubin with a spot-on take:

Listen to the mainstream media’s coverage of House Republicans, and you might think there is a mass of “normal” Republicans who do not buy into election denial, who are not apologists for former president Donald Trump, and who understand that the party’s crazy talk and election conspiracy theories contributed to its historic underperformance in the 2022 midterms.

The mystery: Where are these people hiding?

Prime suspects would be the 18 Republicans from districts that Joe Biden won in 2020, such as Reps. David Schweikert (Ariz.), Don Bacon (Neb.) and Thomas H. Kean (N.J.). Yet every single one of them voted 15 times to make Kevin McCarthy, an election denier, the speaker of the House.

Every single one of them also voted for the rules package that the House passed this week, which sets up a standoff over the debt limit, creates a committee to “investigate” ongoing criminal cases and hobbles the Office of Congressional Ethics. Nor did they didn’t bat an eye over reports that McCarthy (Calif.) promised to give more seats on the Rules Committee to MAGA radicals. Pretty immoderate behavior… [emphases mine]

Then came the vote on Monday to repeal the $80 billion boost in funding for the Internal Revenue Service that Congress passed last year. Getting rid of this money would empower tax cheats and add some $115 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Yet every Republican voted for it. Again, there was no difference between how faux moderates and the worst of the election-denying extremists voted.

It should be clear now that these “normal” Republicans have deceived voters. Kean, for example, ran in the mold of his famous father, the moderate former New Jersey governor. And Bacon told The Post last month that moderates in the party “have to flex our muscles a little bit more and say, ‘We’re going to govern America.’” He added: “There’s a small number that want their way or the highway. Well, that’s how we fail. We can’t let 2 percent or 3 percent drive the whole Congress.” …

But these two enable the extremists. All the time.

Likewise, a slew of Republicans are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, but they seem to be part of the problem. Consider Rep. Young Kim (Calif.), who in her profile on the caucus’s website declares, “I came to Congress to break through the partisan gridlock and get things done.” Given that she refused to impeach Trump, backed McCarthy and regularly votes with the extreme right, that statement is about as credible as Rep. George Santos’s résumé.

Exactly you can say you are moderate and reasonable all you want, but, if in the end your actions clearly serve to empower extremists, you are not moderate! 

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