High-fiber diet boosts response to immunotherapy in melanoma, study finds


A high-fiber diet may improve responses to immunotherapy in melanoma patients, according to a new study. Photo by rawpixel / Pixabay

December 23 (UPI) – A diet high in fiber may improve responses to some type of treatment in people with melanoma, a form of skin cancer, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Science.

A diet that focuses on vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains increases the effectiveness of immunotherapy, a form of cancer treatment that prompts the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells, have said the researchers.

It does this by strengthening the gut microbiome, the collection of bacteria in the digestive tract that plays a key role in the body’s ability to turn food into energy and helps the immune system fight off dangerous viruses and other pathogens, have they declared.

Study participants who consumed at least 20 grams, or just under 1 ounce, of fiber per day via food were about twice as likely to respond well to immunotherapy treatment, the data showed.

However, according to the researchers, those who took probiotic supplements to improve gut microbiome health did not see a similar increase in response to treatment.

“Patients who had enough dietary fiber were actually much more likely to respond to cancer treatment and had much better survival,” Dr Jennifer Wargo told UPI on Thursday in a telephone interview.

“Those who didn’t, unfortunately did it wrong,” said Wargo, a melanoma researcher and co-lead of the Melanoma Moon Shot project at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The Melanoma Moon Shot program is designed to quickly incorporate new findings from cancer treatment research.

More than 100,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and many of them have a family history of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

About 6% of them will die of the disease, the company estimates, although the use of immunotherapy in melanoma and other cancers has improved the prognosis associated with the disease, the research suggests.

Due to the known benefits of fiber to the gut microbiome and the microbiome’s role in health, the American Cancer Research Institute advises cancer patients in general, and those undergoing immunotherapy in particular, to follow the model. of the “new American plate”.

The approach suggests covering at least two-thirds of the plate at mealtime with plant foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans, while devoting the remaining third to animal protein. .

For this study, Wargo and colleagues analyzed the gut microbiome profiles of 438 melanoma patients, 87% of whom were undergoing some form of immunotherapy.

At the start of treatment, participants were asked to complete a lifestyle survey on antibiotic and probiotic use, as well as a dietary questionnaire, the researchers said.

Of those who responded to the survey and questionnaire, participants with adequate fiber intake improved their survival compared to those with insufficient fiber intake, the data shows.

Additionally, those who reported a combination of high-fiber diets and no use of over-the-counter probiotic supplements had the best responses to their cancer treatment, according to the researchers.

A separate analysis in mice found that dietary fiber and probiotics cause microbiome changes and that antitumor immunity is impaired in mice on a low-fiber diet and given probiotics, they said.

Although the benefits of fiber in immunotherapy need to be confirmed in additional studies, the results of this research suggest that diet plays an important role, the researchers said.

“What you put into your body matters and diet matters a lot,” Wargo said.

“If we feed the microbes in our body with good things, like fiber, they thrive, they help, but if we don’t feed them well, it doesn’t help and it can potentially harm us,” he said. she declared.


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