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Cancer is a fatal disease and the drugs used for the treatment are doubtful. Therefore more research is done to have management of the cancer with high efficiency. This report discusses the potential of probiotics in prevention and treatment of cancer. Also the significant role of live and dead probiotics and the different mechanisms used for the prevention of cancer.


Since thousands of years ago it has been known that live microbes have an association with the well being of humans. However in 1974, Parker for the first time introduced the word Probiotics. Metchnikoff and his coworkers did the first study on probiotics and discussed how beneficial the fermented milk is on human health and longevity. Apart from improving gut health , probiotics also play a role in preventing other chronic diseases like cancer , allergy. It plays a very important role in preventing cancer by both increasing and decreasing production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. To eliminate the early stage cancer cells probiotics have the ability to activate phagocytes. In a few years , there are chances that probiotics become an important component in prevention and treatment of cancer.

Probiotics and Cancer

Cancer is one the major causes of death. Till now there is no suitable cure for it. The reason for the cause of cancer is progressive aggregation of mutations in the genetic material of cells. The association of probiotics in preventing, treating, and reducing the progression of cancer cells was known when Goldin and Gorbedon demonstrated the association between a diet enriched with Lactobacillus and a reduced incidence of colon cancer. Further research was carried out using cancer cells / cell lines and that led to the conclusion that probiotics possess antiproliferative or proapoptotic activities on a wide range of cancer cells which include colon, stomach, breast, cervix, and myeloid leukaemia. Many researches were carried out which showed that probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG (LGG) and Bifidobacterium adolescentis SPM0212 inhibit human gastric cancer cells and three colonic cancer cells lines.

Prevention and treatment of cancer using Live probiotics

An in vitro experiment conducted by scientist Thirabunyanon et al. showed that live whole probiotic strains of Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus fermentum from fermented milks triggered colon cancer cells anti-proliferation. Many different studies and experiments were taken which showed how different probiotics are useful in prevention of different cancer.

For eg : Lactobacillus casei has the potent anti-proliferative, growth-inhibitory and pro-apoptotic effects. L acidophilus is used to prevent breast cancer by activating innate anti-cancer cells. Experiment was carried out by Jacouton et vivo which showed that the dairy strain of probiotic live L casei BL23 possessed potential anti-inflammatory and antitumor effects when administered orally to 6–8 weeks old female mice.

Prevention and treatment of cancer using Dead probiotics

As we have seen the effects of live Probiotics in animals, let's see how dead Probiotics treat cancer in a better way. Lee et le, in one of his studies observed that dead L. plantarum inhibits azoxymethane/dextran sulfate sodium-induced CAC in mice in an efficient way than the live Probiotics.

This dead Probiotics displayed minimum inflammatory markers expression, regulated the expression of apoptotic markers and cell cycle in colon, increasing the level of fecal IgA. Injecting AOM to the mice caused loss of body weight and colonic shortening, which is cured when a combination of live and dead Probiotics were given.

Mechanisms used for prevention and treatment of cancer using probiotics

There are various different mechanisms used which include :

  1. Modulation of gut microbiota: The importance of this is that it changes the composition of the gut microbial species and suppresses the growth of cancer inducing bacteria. Prevotella and Oscillibacter are known to have the anti inflammatory metabolites.

  2. Enhancing the gut barrier function: It is important to maintain the gut barriers because if there are alternation in the composition of the gut microbiota ( Dysbiosis) which have association with the pathology, which results in the rupture of barriers and it induces the inflammatory pathologies and this may lead to cancer initiation and progression.

  3. Degradation of Potential Carcinogens and Protective Effect of DNA Damage: There are many studies carried out which showed the potential of probiotics in degrading carcinogens. A study was carried out in which the rats were supplemented with freeze dried probiotics which included Lactobacillus acidophilus , Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium , and Streptococcus thermophilus DD145 strains and on these were induced in the intestinal tumors of rat and the result showed the inhibition of tumors within the rat colon when compared to the control group.

  4. Enhancement of immune system : Several studies showed that the immune system is enhanced in cancer patients by probiotics. For example : By supplementing Lactobacillus casei strain the activity of NK and T cells were enhanced and thus phagocytes activity of macrophages improved which led to inhibition of cancer.

Jhanvi Ranpuria

Department of biochemistry and biotechnology

St. Xavier’s college, Ahmedabad

  1. Probiotics for cancer alternative prevention and treatment

  2. Probiotic Bacteria: A Promising Tool in Cancer Prevention and Therapy doi: 10.1007/s00284-019-01679-8

  3. Probiotics and Their Potential Preventive and Therapeutic Role for Cancer, High Serum Cholesterol, and Allergic and HIV Diseases

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