Studies show that autologous fecal microbiota transplantation (auto-FMT) restores a cancer patient’s healthy microbiome  after they receive intense antimicrobial therapy. Cancer patients go under allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation which requires intense antibiotics to make them feel more like themselves. FMT is a safe way of helping to replace beneficial bacteria that the patients may lose due to the antibiotics.

This image depicts autologous fecal microbiota transplants.

In order for allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation to take place, a donor, usually a sibling or parent, must give the recipient stem cells; this re-establishes bone marrow production of the blood cells and is what causes an immune function to cancer. This approach is favored because most patients have a donor in their family who is at least a 50% match. However, the process of reconstructing the immune system is slow because patients experience infections for a long time after the transplant takes place. To prevent bacterial infections in stem cell recipients, the antibiotics are necessary. These antibiotics, however, also break apart bacteria that is beneficial to the immune system and resistant to infection. This increases the risk of infectious diseases that can be life threatening.  

However, researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have now learned that auto-FMT can reverse the negative effects of antibiotic treatment. If what they conclude is validated, this may prove to be a simple way of quickly restoring a patient’s healthy microbiome following antimicrobial therapy.

The study done by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center involved 25 cancer patients who provided their own stool sample. This sample was then frozen prior to the procedure. Weeks later, physicians confirmed that the transplanted cells were growing so the cancer patients were assessed to see the status of the beneficial bacteria. The first 25 patients who lacked beneficial bacteria were then used for the study. Each person was randomly assigned to a treatment group, which included 11 patients who received standard care and 14 who received auto-FMT. The researchers found that function was regained by the patients who received auto_FMT. These lucky patients recovered beneficial bacteria within days, restoring their immune and digestive functions. Those who did not receive auto-FMT had a delayed recovery of up to many weeks, leaving patients at risk of other infectious diseases.


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