Our body is home to trillions of microorganisms, the majority of which are found in your gut. This gut microbiome plays a vital role in supporting your metabolism, nutrition, physiology, and immune function.
In a first-of-its-kind study, the immune-boosting power of a healthy gut microbiome is being harnessed by Australian researchers to treat cancer survivors with a common chronic postoperative illness.
‘Poo Transplant’ Trial Could Save Blood-Cancer Patients
In the “poo transplant” trial, gut microbes from the stool of a healthy donor are transferred into a patient to improve their immune response to fight disease.
The process is called faecal microbiota transplant (FMT)
FMT is being trialed in blood cancer survivors who have developed post-complications, like GVHD. Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GVHD) is a common complication of a bone-marrow transplant when donor immune cells attack the recipient’s organs and tissues.
QIMR Berghofer Researcher and RBWH Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation Specialist Dr. Andrea Henden said, “A bone marrow transplant can be a double-edged sword. It saves the lives of people with aggressive blood cancers but can then take their lives by causing GVHD which is heart-breaking,”.
“GVHD is particularly hard to treat in the gut with patients often hospitalized for long periods of time where they are dependent on hospital care and intensive immune-suppressing medications. Conventional immune-suppressing steroid medication fails to work in half of all GVHD patients,”
This ground-breaking trial is being led by Dr. Henden, a QIMR Berghofer clinician-scientist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH). The trial uses a new biological product made by Australian Red Cross Lifeblood from the Rotary WA Health Innovation Centre in Perth.
Researchers hope that successful trials could lead to more effective treatments for inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.