Unleashing the Power of the Microbiome: New Insights into How Gut Bacteria Influence Cancer

By Haarika Atluri and Shafaq Siddiqui

In this blog post, we look closer at the Microbiome team from the ACE Scholars Program, which is led by Gissel Marquez Alcaraz, a second-year Ph.D. student studying evolutionary biology. Working alongside her co-mentors, Drs. Carlo Maley and Athena Aktipis, Gissel and her team are committed to comprehending the intricate connections between microbes and cancer.

Gissel states, "Some microbes are cancer-inducing and cause cancer, while other microbes are cancer-protective and prevent cancer.” The Microbiome and Cancer team’s investigation focuses on cancer-protective microbes, which can potentially augment the effectiveness of existing cancer treatments.

One of the methods that the Microbiome and Cancer team has been utilizing in order to thoroughly investigate cancer-protective microbes, includes literature reviews. Gissel notes, "Literature is very important to our team because that is what we use to compile the list of cancer-protective and cancer-inducing microbes that have already been tested. We need to know the effects and outcomes of other microbe and cancer studies since we hope to apply them to our work on mice.” As a result of their research thus far, the team has also helped develop a new project that focuses on scrutinizing the influence of microbes on colorectal cancer and adaptive therapy!

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Gissel and her team are also currently engrossed in producing two informative posters to present at upcoming events, and are hoping to attain microbiome data in the future to begin working in R as well.

The Microbiome and Cancer Team members are constantly seeking novel methods through which microbes can impact cancer, to potentially revolutionize cancer treatment. They hope to “explore different microbiome data and continue to find the effects of microbes on cancer, [as well as] begin to explore diet and link [the] cancer-protective microbes to different diets.”