Microbiota and Colorectal Cancer: From Gut to Bedside

Miguel SilvaValentina Brunner and Markus Tschurtschenthaler

Front. Pharmacol., 30 September 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.760280


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a complex condition with heterogeneous aetiology, caused by a combination of various environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors. The presence of a homeostatic gut microbiota is critical to maintaining host homeostasis and determines the delicate boundary between health and disease. The gut microbiota has been identified as a key environmental player in the pathogenesis of CRC. Perturbations of the gut microbiota structure (loss of equilibrium and homeostasis) are associated with several intestinal diseases including cancer. Such dysbiosis encompasses the loss of beneficial microorganisms, outgrowth of pathogens and pathobionts and a general loss of local microbiota diversity and richness. Notably, several mechanisms have recently been identified how bacteria induce cellular transformation and promote tumour progression. In particular, the formation of biofilms, the production of toxic metabolites or the secretion of genotoxins that lead to DNA damage in intestinal epithelial cells are newly discovered processes by which the microbiota can initiate tumour formation. The gut microbiota has also been implicated in the metabolism of therapeutic drugs (conventional chemotherapy) as well as in the modulation of radiotherapy responses and targeted immunotherapy. These new findings suggest that the efficacy of a given therapy depends on the composition of the host’s gut microbiota and may therefore vary from patient to patient. In this review we discuss the role of host-microbiota interactions in cancer with a focus on CRC pathogenesis. Additionally, we show how gut bacteria can be exploited in current therapies and how mechanisms directed by microbiota, such as immune cell boost, probiotics and oncolytic bacteria, can be applied in the development of novel therapies.