Anti-cancer probiotics update

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can probiotics treat cancer?
Probiotics for cancer, but which ones?

Probiotics is a big buzz word in integrative medicine.  Using different strains of bacteria to create a healthy microbiome could well cause a revolution in treatments that is as big as that of penicillin in 1928.  The story may also be very similar.  Although Alexander Fleming is credited with developing penicillin, the antibacterial action of fungus dates back to the 1600’s when pharmacologist John Parkington recommended the use of mold as a medical treatment. The use of healthy bacteria to aid healing dates back to the early 1900’s when a Russian scientist suggested the gut flora could be modified by adding beneficial bacteria to eliminate non beneficial bacteria. However, the use of fermented foods such as yoghurt and cheeses that contain live beneficial bacteria goes back even further, to the ancient Greeks.

Navigating the minefield?

It does seem like a minefield out there, as there are so many different species of bacteria that live on the body.  One study claimed that bacteria cells outnumber our own cells by 10 to 1. There are also many different bacterial species that are associated with different benefits and sometimes the benefits are based on their interaction with other species, so deciding which probiotic to take is not easy.  If that wasn’t enough to contend with, there is also the question of how good the live bacteria are at surviving in the gut and colon.  There is no point in investing in expensive probiotics if they are all going to be massacred by the acid pH, the minute they hit the gut.

Probiotics for Cancer  Latest Research

The following list is an update on the past year's research on probiotics that show anti-cancer activity.

Lactobacillus paracasei                         Colon Cancer In vitro experiment using HT-29 colon cancer cells.  Lactobacillus changed cancer cell cycle, increased reactive oxygen species and increased cancer cell death.    Hu et al. Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. Paracasei M5L induces cell cycle arrest and calreticulin translocation via the generation of reactive oxygen species in HT – 29 cell apoptosis. Food Funct. Jun 2015. 

L. Acidophilus        Breast Cancer In an animal model of breast cancer. Oral L acidophilus stimulated the immune system, increasing beneficial cytokine production and reducing aggravating cytokine production. Survival time increased compared to a control group.
Imani et al. Th1 Cytokine Production Induced by Lactobacillus acidophilus in BALB/c Mice Bearing Transplanted Breast Tumor. Jundishapur J Microbiol. April 2015.

Lactobacillus plantarum  Colorectal Cancer In an animal model, two different strains of probiotic were compared for their anticancer effects. Lactobacillus plantarum increased the ability of natural Killer cells to infiltrate tumours and promoted other anti-tumor immune responses. Hu et al. Anti-tumour immune effect of oral administration of Lactobacillus plantarum to CT26 tumour-bearing mice. J. Biosci. Jun 2015.


Lactobacillus casei  Breast Cancer Expanding on previous work that showed milk fermented with Lactobacillus casei delayed breast cancer growth. This study demonstrated that the L casei also decreased and suppressed tumour growth and reduced metastasis to the lungs.  Aragon et al. Inhibition of Growth and Metastasis of Breast Cancer in Mice by Milk Fermented with Lactobacillus casei CRL 431.J. Immunotherapy. Jun 2015. 

Lactobacillus acidophilus   Lactobacillus casei  Colorectal Cancer Study investigating effect of two different extracts of probiotics on growth of colorectal cancer cells in a lab environment. Both extracts and supernatants reduced cell proliferation and increased cell death.  They also decreased the migration and invasion of the cancer cells. Soltan Sallal et al. Effects of probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei on colorectal tumor cells activity (CaCo-2). Arch IranMed. March 2015. 




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