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Is the microbiome involved in childhood cancer?


UK researchers are uncovering a possible link between the microbiome and the most common cancer in children, and will first study mice to shed further light on this.

A team at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found that the diversity of the microbiome – the natural community of microorganisms in the body – may play a role in the development of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), the most common childhood cancer, as investigations showed that children with the disease had less diverse microbiomes.

This suggests that increasing the different types of microbiome species (such as bacteria, fungi and viruses) in patients could help to prevent ALL, possibly because a more diverse microbiome makes the immune system more effective at fighting infections.

Now, the researchers will investigate this question, using mice to understand which features of the microbiome are most important for immunity, as well as how to strengthen the immune system to stop ALL.

Prof Sir Mel Greaves at ICR said: “Focusing on prevention means not only minimising these side effects, but saving lives altogether. That’s what we’re striving for.” 

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