Valerio IEBBA

Associate Professor, University of Trieste, Department of Medical, Surgical and Health Sciences SSD of Advanced Translational Microbiology, Trieste, ITALY

Gut microbial markers and agents in cancer

Host: S. Zacchigna

From the initiation of the Human Microbiome Project in 2007 to the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine awarded in 2018 for cancer immunotherapy, the human gut microbiota has been a central focus in biomarker research. The primary goal was to identify reliable indicators of disease or the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Researchers attempted to achieve this through taxonomic analyses, particularly focusing on bacterial species, and by exploring the inherent genetic potential of these bacteria. While certain gut microbial species have been associated with favorable responses in meta- analyses that utilized shotgun metagenomes, a consensus on a definitive gut profile predicting immunoresistance in routine practice for each individual has not been established. Therefore, the first part of this seminar will present recent findings concerning the role of microbes in cancer immunotherapy, an area that still lacks a comprehensive mechanistic explanation. In recent years, microbial species in the gut have also attracted attention in research related to cancer initiation. This is primarily because certain bacterial species can produce genotoxins capable of causing DNA damage. These genotoxins are predominantly found in specific bacterial members of the Proteobacteria phylum within the gut microbiota. They exert pathogenic effects on the underlying intestinal epithelial cells, potentially leading to the malignant transformation of these eukaryotic cells. The second part of the seminar will showcase results related to the detection of genotoxins within metagenomes from colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and their specific impact on eukaryotic cells. This presentation raises mechanistic questions about the broader pathogenic potential of these genotoxins and their spread within Proteobacteria.

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