The cancer–immune dialogue subject to immuno-oncological intervention is profoundly influenced by microenvironmental factors. Indeed, the mucosal microbiota—and more specifically, the intestinal ecosystem—influences the tone of anticancer immune responses and the clinical benefit of immunotherapy. Antibiotics blunt the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), and fecal microbial transplantation may restore responsiveness of ICI-resistant melanoma. Here, we review the yin and yang of intestinal bacteria at the crossroads between the intestinal barrier, metabolism, and local or systemic immune responses during anticancer therapies. We discuss diagnostic tools to identify gut dysbiosis and the future prospects of microbiota-based therapeutic interventions.
Given the recent proof of concept of the potential efficacy of fecal microbial transplantation in patients with melanoma primarily resistant to PD-1 blockade, it is timely to discuss how and why antibiotics compromise the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy, describe the balance between beneficial and harmful microbial species in play during therapies, and introduce the potential for microbiota-centered interventions for the future of immuno-oncology.