In this episode we’re looking at how to make therapies that target our immune system more effective.

Could it be as simple as changing the composition of the bacteria in the gut, the intestinal microbiome that contains a gazillion bugs?

Dr Tom Gajewski

Dr Tom Gajewski from the University of Chicago (pictured above) talks about research from his lab, recently published in Science, that shows the composition of gut bacteria can impact the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors in animals.

Could this be part of the reason some people respond to checkpoint inhibitors and others don’t?

Evelo TherapeuticsThe day after the interview with Dr Gajewski at the 2015 Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting, the University of Chicago announced an agreement with Evelo Therapeutics to commercialize his microbiome research.

Read November 9, 2015 Evelo Press Release.

Marcel R.M. van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo Credit: MSKCC

In this episode, Dr Marcel van den Brink from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center talks about his microbiome research, and how the composition of bacteria in the gut an have an effect on Graft versus Host Disease (GvHD).

GvHD is a serious and lethal complication of allogeneic bone marrow transports, where donor T cells see the body as “foreign” and harm tissues, particularly in the gut.

This interview was recorded at the 2014 SITC annual meeting, and previously published on Biotech Strategy Blog (subscription required): “Can you reduce Graft versus Host Disease GvHD by regulating gut bacteria

There’s an update on work from Dr van den Brink’s lab at the 2015 American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting in Orlando:

ASH 2015 Abstract 744: “The Abundance of Certain Bacteria in the Intestinal Flora Is Associated with Relapse after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation”

Additional Information

Publications in Science

Two papers on the gut microbiome and checkpoint inhibitors from two different labs were published in the same November 2015 issue of Science. One group was led by Tom Gajewski:

Commensal Bifidobacterium promotes antitumor immunity and facilitates anti–PD-L1 efficacy. Science, 27 November 2015: 350 (6264), 1084-1089. Published online 5 November 2015. DOI:10.1126/science.aac4255

The other led by Laurence Zitvogel from Institut Gustave Roussy in France:

Anticancer immunotherapy by CTLA-4 blockade relies on the gut microbiota. Science, 27 November 2015: 1079-1084. Published online 5 November 2015. DOI:10.1126/science.aad1329.

Transistor Science Podcast

If you have an interest in the gut microbiome, and science podcasts, then Transistor is well worth a listen. Back in March 2015, they aired a really well produced show called “The Straight Poop” that delves in more detail into fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs). It’s well worth a listen!

Update: ESMO19 Interview 

We caught up with Dr Gajewski at the 2019 ESMO Congress in Barcelona and in the interview published on Biotech Strategy Blog (subscription required) he talks about how his lab has been working on the microbiome and some of the elegant mouse models they have now developed.

“The potential of innovative mouse models to recapitulate the microbiome of patients”

This is really great science, so do check it out! We’ve shared an excerpt below:


Podcast Music

The music in this podcast episode is by electric violinist and composer David Schulman from his album Quiet Life Motel.


This podcast episode is sponsored by Genentech. We’re grateful for their support.

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