Bacteriophage manipulation of the microbiome associated with tumour microenvironments-can this improve cancer therapeutic response?

Mwila Kabwe, Stuart Dashper, Gilad Bachrach, Joseph Tucci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Some cancer treatment failures have been attributed to the tumour microbiota, with implications that microbiota manipulation may improve treatment efficacy. While antibiotics have been used to control bacterial growth, their dysbiotic effects on the microbiome, failure to penetrate biofilms and decreased efficacy due to increasing antimicrobial resistance by bacteria, suggest alternatives are needed. Bacteriophages may provide a precise means for targeting oncobacteria whose relative abundance is increased in tumour tissue microbiomes. Fusobacterium, Streptococcus, Peptostreptococcus, Prevotella, Parvimonas, and Treponema species are prevalent in tumour tissue microbiomes of some cancers. They may promote cancer growth by dampening immunity, stimulating release of proinflammatory cytokines, and directly interacting with cancer cells to stimulate proliferation. Lytic bacteriophages against some of these oncobacteria have been isolated and characterised. The search continues for others. The possibility exists for their testing as adjuncts to complement existing therapies. In this review, we highlight the role of oncobacteria, specifically those whose relative abundance in the intra-tumour microbiome is increased, and discuss the potential for bacteriophages against these micro-organisms to augment existing cancer therapies. The capacity for bacteriophages to modulate immunity and kill specific bacteria makes them suitable candidates to manipulate the tumour microbiome and negate the effects of these oncobacteria.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberfuab017
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - 8 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of FEMS.


  • bacteriophages
  • cancer therapy
  • cancer tumour microenvironment
  • microbiome manipulation
  • tumour microbiome


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