While the early use of antibiotics during chemotherapy may be lifesaving, antibiotic therapy is associated with worse outcomes in patients with ovarian cancer during platinum chemotherapy. The study by Chambers and colleagues in this issue of Cancer Research provides mechanistic insights into how disrupting the gut microbiome with broad-spectrum antibiotics negatively influences the survival of patients with ovarian cancer and highlights the impact of the gut microbiome on tumor progression and response to therapy. Treatment of ovarian cancer models with a broad-spectrum antibiotic cocktail (ABX, vancomycin, neomycin sulfate, metronidazole, ampicillin) changed the gut microbiome and increased tumor growth and development of cisplatin resistance. Stem cells, reported to drive resistance to chemotherapy and disease recurrence in ovarian cancer, were enriched as a surprising consequence of ABX-induced microbiome disruption. Immune-competent and immune-deficient mice revealed that ABX treatment enhanced the cisplatin-induced stemness and provided evidence for immune surveillance of ovarian cancer stem cells through the gut microbiome. Two gut-derived metabolites, indole-3-propionic acid and indoxyl sulfate, suppressed by ABX treatment and reestablished with cecal microbial transplantation colonization of ABX-treated mice, were identified as potential effectors connecting the gut microbiome to ovarian cancer growth. This clinically relevant study opens new therapeutic opportunities for patients—one aimed at interventions to increase platinum sensitivity and another aimed at preventing the potential adverse effects of broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment. Both represent paradigm changes to standard care.

See related article by Chambers et al., p. 4654

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