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MyBiotics, Hadassah to study impact of microbiome on cancer therapies

Joint research aims to find microbiome-based drugs that will enhance patient response and reduce adverse effects of immunotherapies in melanoma patients

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A 3D illustrative image of rod-shaped bacteria and cocci in the human microbiome (Dr_Microbe; iStock by Getty Images)
A 3D illustrative image of rod-shaped bacteria and cocci in the human microbiome (Dr_Microbe; iStock by Getty Images)

MyBiotics Pharma Ltd. said Tuesday it will work with Hadasit Medical Research Services and Development Ltd., the technology transfer arm of Hadassah Medical Center, to identify microbiome-based therapies to improve the impact of cancer immunotherapies in melanoma patients.

MyBiotics has developed technologies to culture, ferment and deliver highly stable and diverse bacterial communities that can target different sites across the human body to restore the microbiome equilibrium.

The collaboration will combine Hadassah’s knowhow and expertise in immunotherapy treatment for melanoma patients with MyBiotics’ microbiome technologies to enable development of new drugs, the companies said in a statement.

The research is aimed at assessing the composition of the gut microbiome and organic compounds produced by the gut bacteria in up to 100 melanoma patients treated with immunotherapies, called PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitors, to see which react better to the therapies and find a possible link between the composition of the microbiome and a successful treatment.

Prof Michal Lotem, head of the Hadassah Cancer Research Institute (HCRI) and head of the Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy, Department of Oncology at Hadassah Medical Center (Courtesy)

“Recent research supports the important role played by the microbiome in promoting the success of cancer immunotherapies, and points to the possibility of influencing the composition of the microbiome as an adjunct treatment,” said David Daboush, CEO of MyBiotics Pharma, in the statement.

In the last five years, studies have shown how the microbiome of specific patients could impact cancer development and response to treatments. In animal models, tweaking the microbiome or adding secondary metabolites influenced the efficiency of cancer immunotherapy, the statement said.

These findings and others support the potential of changing the microbiome composition as a tool to improve the efficacy and reduce the toxicity of checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies in cancer patients, the statement said. Checkpoint inhibitor therapy is a form of cancer immunotherapy that targets immune checkpoints, which are regulators of the immune system that when stimulated can dampen the immunologic response. By stimulating these checkpoints, some cancers are able to protect themselves from attack by the immune system.

The two-year joint project will be conducted by researchers from MyBiotics and Hadassah Cancer Research Institute headed by Prof. Michal Lotem, head of the Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy, Department of Oncology at Hadassah Medical Center. It will be funded by MyBiotics, which has an exclusive license for all data and inventions stemming from the collaboration.

“For years I have strived to study what was driving long-term survival of melanoma patients who did well beyond expectations,” said Lotem. “This collaboration gives us advanced molecular and genomic tools to analyze treatment success.”

The Hadassah Cancer Research Institute is a newly established center devoted to the development of next generation tools and therapies aimed at curing cancer. The HCRI, headed by Lotem and Dr. Kfir Umansky, chief operations officer, works closely with Hadassah Medical Center, which is one of the biggest oncological centers in Israel.

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