Israeli company tests fecal bacteria pills against cancer

Israeli company tests fecal bacteria pills against cancer

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Twelve Israeli cancer patients will soon start treatment with pills containing faecal bacteria, as part of a clinical trial to assess the effect of the new therapy on the overall efficacy of immunotherapy.

Scientists from Rehovot-based pharmaceutical company Biomica studied data on the bacterial balance of faeces in a large number of cancer patients.

They noted that certain bacteria were missing in those who responded poorly to immunotherapy, and accordingly developed pills containing the bacteria in question.

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Biomica pills contain these lab-grown, missing bacteria.

The pills showed positive results both in animal tests and in a pre-clinical trial on human patients. In the coming days, a formal phase I clinical trial will begin at Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

“Somehow we’ve created the best team of bacteria there is, and we’re hopeful they’ll be effective,” Biomica CEO Dr. Elran Haber told The Daily Mail. Times of Israel.

The trial, which aims to assess the safety of the therapy, will focus on melanoma, kidney cancer and large cell lung cancers.

“We believe that by adding bacteria to the microbiome, which stimulates the immune system, we will allow doctors to use immunotherapy more successfully,” Haber said.

Doctors are increasingly interested in the microbiome and its changes, to fight cancer or improve the chances that other cancer treatments will work.

In December 2020, unrelated research by Biomica doctors at Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv found that three terminal cancer patients treated with feces pills had seen their tumors shrink. and, in one case, disappear completely.

Illustrative: A cancer patient receives immunotherapy treatment. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“The trial we are about to launch at Rambam is for a drug based on a combination of four bacteria that normally live in the human body and perform certain functions in biological processes,” Haber said.

“By providing the bacteria to patients who lack them, we activate their immune system much more effectively, and thus the chances of success of immunotherapy. »

He said his company started working on the drug five years ago, in the wake of early microbiome and cancer research.

“In 2017, a number of articles were published trying to explain why immunotherapy, which was revolutionizing the treatment of cancers, gave good results on some, but not on others,” he said. he declares.

“The focus has been on the role of the microbiome. »

Illustration of the human microbiome (Credit: Design Cells via iStock by Getty Images)

“We decided to conduct research. We did this by compiling a very large amount of data, and we noted a significant difference between the microbiome of patients sensitive to immunotherapy and that of patients for whom immunotherapy had no effect. We made sure to find ways to fix this. »

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