Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the commonest cancers globally. A unique aspect of CRC is its intimate association with the gut microbiota, which forms an essential part of the tumour microenvironment. Research over the past decade has established that dysbiosis of gut bacteria, fungi, viruses and Archaea accompanies colorectal tumorigenesis, and these changes might be causative. Data from mechanistic studies demonstrate the ability of the gut microbiota to interact with the colonic epithelia and immune cells of the host via the release of a diverse range of metabolites, proteins and macromolecules that regulate CRC development. Preclinical and some clinical evidence also underscores the role of the gut microbiota in modifying the therapeutic responses of patients with CRC to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Herein, we summarize our current understanding of the role of gut microbiota in CRC and outline the potential translational and clinical implications for CRC diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Emphasis is placed on how the gut microbiota could now be better harnessed by developing targeted microbial therapeutics as chemopreventive agents against colorectal tumorigenesis, as adjuvants for chemotherapy and immunotherapy to boost drug efficacy and safety, and as non-invasive biomarkers for CRC screening and patient stratification. Finally, we highlight the hurdles and potential solutions to translating our knowledge of the gut microbiota into clinical practice.
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This project was supported by funds from Research Grants Council-General Research Fund (14101321; 24100520), RGC-Collaborative Research Fund (C4039-19G); Heath and Medical Research Fund (06170686; 08190706); and the Science and Technology Program Grant Shenzhen (JCYJ20170413161534162).
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology thanks A. Chan who co-reviewed with C. Geraghty and W. Jia, who co-reviewed with H. Li and Y. Ni; and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Wong, C.C., Yu, J. Gut microbiota in colorectal cancer development and therapy. Nat Rev Clin Oncol 20, 429–452 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41571-023-00766-x
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