Recent research presented at the 2022 Endocrine Society Conference showcased some promising research being conducted on probiotics and breast cancer. A team of scientists from Wake Forest University presented data showing the potential effect probiotics may have for supporting tamoxifen, a common anti-cancer drug.
The research was focused on probiotic interactions in the breast microbiome and the effects of supplementation. Part of the study also indicated the large effect probiotics can have on the breast microbiome.
Probiotics and the Breast Microbiome
The most well-known microbiome in the human body is the gut microbiome, due to a large number of recent studies and it contains the most microbes. Other parts of the body can have microbiota as well, however, including the breast.
In a study in mice and cows, Wake Forest researchers study the effects of targetting the breast microbiota and its impact on breast cancer risk. Results of the study revealed that the breast microbiota is sensitive to diet and may be able to be changed with proper supplementation.
Nutrition associated with the study came in the form of a Mediterranean diet, or other, similar high-fat diets. Researchers noted elevated levels of Lactobacillus in participants taking tamoxifen. Lactobacillus is found in healthy gut microbiota and is a bacteria commonly found in probiotics as well given it is noted for anti-inflammatory properties.
When large amounts of Lactobacillus were introduced to the mammary glands of genetically engineered mice, they showed an overall decreased level of collective breast cancer. These data were what encouraged the Wake Forest team to share their preliminary findings at the Endocrine Society Conference.
Future Probiotic & Cancer Research
Like most medical studies, promising results are always tempered by the fact that one study does not indicate causality. In particular, the study was in an animal model and this does not mean the same effect would be seen in humans. Similar research will need to be conducted in humans to see if Lactobacillus or other probiotics are worth pursuing with regard to cancer research.
Probiotics used in the Wake Forest study are widely available to consumers as supplements. Future research may want to use different levels or specific types of probiotic blends to look for more targeted effects.
Wake Forest researchers are currently looking into if probiotics can affect the breast microbiome at all in order to see if studies would be worth conducting in humans. The breast cancer study also focused solely on preventing breast cancer in an animal model. Different types of studies need to be conducted to see if probiotics have the potential to help support people with active cancer treatments. Continued positive results could very well lead to other research involving specific cancer drugs and interactions with different microbiota and probiotics.
This is all very recent research. As such, all of the results must be taken with a grain of salt. With that being said, this early research is very promising and could potentially lead to some exciting breakthroughs.
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