Investigators examine effectiveness of probiotics for cancer treatment

Published on March 21, 2013 at 6:39 AM · No Comments

One may not think of probiotics -- like those found in yogurt that promote good digestive health -- as a weapon used in the fight against cancer. But that is the focus of investigators at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, who are examining the effectiveness of probiotics as they relate to the outcomes of bone marrow transplant for patients with blood cancers. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Some patients with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are treated with an "allogeneic" bone marrow transplant where the donor is a blood relative or is unrelated but has the same tissue type. Donated cells can generate an immune attack against cancer cells in the patient, but they can also attack normal healthy cells and tissues. This attack, known as "graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)," is one of the major complications of transplantation and occurs in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in 25 to 40 percent of patients who undergo the allogeneic procedure.

When the GI tract malfunctions, bacteria in the colon can invade the body and cause severe infections that activate the immune system. GVHD can then progress to the liver and other organs. Probiotics are known to reduce the growth of certain types of bacteria. Investigators at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, who have already determined the probiotic lactobacillus GG is safe in relation to GVHD, are now exploring its effectiveness as part of the "PERFECT" (Probiotic Enteric Regimen For Easing Complications of Transplant) trial. The research is being led by Roger Strair, MD, PhD, chief of hematologic malignancies/hematopoietic stem cell transplantation at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and has received generous support from the Steven and Beverly Rubenstein Charitable Foundation, Inc.

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