How Dietary Fiber Could Impact Cancer Treatment

High-fiber diet tied to improved immunotherapy response in those with melanoma

(RxWiki News) The amount of fiber in your diet may influence how effective certain cancer treatments will be.

That's one takeaway of a new study that looked at the link between dietary fiber consumption and the effectiveness of immunotherapy for melanoma. Study participants who consumed at least 20 grams of fiber per day survived the longest without their melanoma progressing during immunotherapy.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers behind this study suggested that this link may be because of the effect of fiber on the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

“The data suggest that one can target the composition of the gut microbiota and affect the ability of the patient to respond to immunotherapy,” said study author Dr. Giorgio Trinchieri, chief of the Laboratory of Integrative Cancer Immunology in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, in a press release. “Consuming a diet rich in fiber, like fruits, vegetables, and legumes, could improve your ability to respond to immunotherapy.”

The idea of immunotherapy for cancer is to enable the immune system to identify and destroy tumor cells. While immune therapy drugs have been highly effective for some patients with melanoma, some have seen their tumors grow during treatment. According to the authors of this new study, past research suggests that gut bacteria may play a role in how a patient will respond to immunotherapy.

The current study appears to confirm that theory.

To conduct this study, researchers looked at fiber intake in 128 patients who had melanoma and were receiving immune therapy. They also tested the link between gut bacteria and immune therapy response to melanoma in mice.

In both parts of the study, a high-fiber diet was linked to delayed tumor growth. The authors of this study noted that the human population size was relatively small. They said further research in larger studies was warranted.

Before making any major changes to your diet, talk to your health care provider.

This study was published in the journal Science.

Information on study funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
January 7, 2022