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Theranostics. 2019 May 31;9(14):4115-4129. doi: 10.7150/thno.35131. eCollection 2019.

Combination Therapy of TGF-β Blockade and Commensal-derived Probiotics Provides Enhanced Antitumor Immune Response and Tumor Suppression.

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National Engineering Research Center for Nanomedicine, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430074, China.
Key Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics of Ministry of Education, Center for Human Genome Research, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430074, China.
Department of Biotechnology, College of Life Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430074, China.
Department of Microbiology, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
Hepatic Surgery Center, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 430030, China.


Galunisertib (Gal) is a transforming growth factor (TGF-β) blockade which is being investigated as a potential tumor immunotherapy candidate drug in clinical trials. However, primary or acquired resistance is often found in the recruited cancer patients, which limits its clinical application. Tumor immune microenvironment can be regulated by intestinal microbiota, leading to different therapeutic outcomes. It is hypothesized that manipulation of cancer patients' intestinal microbiome in the early stage of therapy may be a promising strategy to improve the therapeutic efficacy of Gal. Methods: 4T1 and H22 subcutaneous tumor bearing mice were used to evaluate the therapeutic effect. Escherichia coli strain Nissle 1917 (EcN), a widely used probiotic bacteria, was orally delivered to the tumor bearing mice daily along with Gal treatment. Antitumor effect of the combination therapy was evaluated by tumor volume, histological staining of tumor tissues. Furthermore, flow cytometry was performed to analyze the alteration of immune microenvironment in tumor bed after treatment. The suppressing effect of the combination therapy on tumor invasiveness and metastasis was evaluated in both mice and zebrafish xenografts models. Fecal sample 16S rRNA gene sequencing was conducted to analyze changes of intestinal microbial diversity. The effect of intestinal microbiota on tumor suppression after receiving EcN was further tested by fecal transplant. Results: The therapeutic outcomes in tumor growth inhibition and metastasis suppression of Gal were significantly potentiated by EcN, resulting from the strengthened antitumor immunity. EcN was able to relieve the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, which was evidenced by enhanced tumor-specific effector T cells infiltration and dendritic cells activation. Intestinal microbiota was modulated by EcN, illustrated by a shift of gut microbiome toward certain beneficial bacteria. Conclusion: These results suggested that Gal combined with EcN might be a novel therapeutic approach with great potential of clinical implications for cancer prevention or treatment.


TGF-β blockade; cancer treatment; gut microbiota; immunotherapy; tumor immune microenvironment

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interest exists.

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