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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Fecal Microbiota Transplantation Helps Restore Beneficial Bacteria in Cancer Patients

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have shown that autologous fecal microbiota transplantation (auto-FMT) is a safe and effective way to help replenish beneficial gut bacteria in cancer patients who require intense antibiotics during allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

In their study, patients who underwent the procedure were randomly assigned into two groups: one group received standard care and the other received auto-FMT. The researchers found that auto-FMT resulted in the recovery of beneficial gut bacteria to near baseline levels within days, thus restoring patients’ digestive, immune and other essential functions. With standard care, beneficial bacteria typically take many weeks to recover from antibiotic treatment, leaving patients at risk of other infectious diseases, including Clostridium difficile.

NIAID provided funding for part of the project. The study report appears in Science Translational Medicine.

“This important study suggests that clinical intervention using auto-FMT can safely reverse the disruptive effects of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment,” said NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci. “If validated in larger studies, this approach may prove to be a relatively simple way to quickly restore a person’s healthy microbiome following intensive antimicrobial therapy.”

Allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation involves a donor—often but not exclusively a family member—who gives the recipient stem cells that re-establish bone marrow production of blood cells and immune function to combat cancer. Antibiotics are essential to prevent bacterial infections in stem cell recipients. However, antibiotics also destroy beneficial bacteria that enhance immune function and resistance to infection. The loss of beneficial bacteria increases the risk of certain life-threatening infectious diseases and graft-versus-host disease.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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