The role of maternal microbiome transmitted at birth in cancer control is poorly understood. We have developed the first germfree B6 mouse model of breast cancer to investigate the role of the maternal microbiome in controlling oncogenic/metastatic frequencies of pro-oncogenic mammary cells. In this model, a DNA barcoded, primitive normal mouse mammary epithelial cell encoding MMTV-PyMT oncogene, was transplanted in large numbers into conventional or germfree B6 mice. Next-gen sequencing analysis of the DNA barcodes in tissues enabled us to clonally track millions of cells and measure the frequency and growth dynamics of clones at the primary site and their systemic distribution in circulation and all vital organs, generating an unprecedented high-definition map of cancer progression. Our results show that in conventional B6 mice with maternal microbial transmission at-birth, a small fraction (~0.01%) of transplanted cells transform de novo and produce slow growing, late-onset benign tumors (mouse median survival of > 1 year). In contrast, in germfree B6 mice, a >10-fold higher frequency of cells transform de novo and generate early-onset, highly aggressive metastatic clones, and are frequently associated with features leading to early euthanasia or endpoint (i.e. sudden death, intracardiac metastasis, paralysis, swollen abdomen, early multiorgan aggressive metastasis) (median survival of ~4 months; p<0.005 vs conventional mice). However, postnatal intervention with healthy fecal implants reconstituted gut microbiota in germfree B6 mice and significantly restored protective effects against cancer progression and sudden death, as well as improved quality/duration of life (median survival of >1 year; p<0.005 vs germfree mice; p=ns vs conventional mice). We found maternal microbial transmission fully protected against systemic metastasis. GC-MS analysis identified significantly distinct primary tumor metabolome associated with conventional (non-metastatic) mice vs germfree (metastatic) mice. Metagenomic analysis of fecal samples from a subset of tumor bearing conventional (non-metastatic) mice vs fecal implanted (late-onset, less aggressive metastatic) germfree mice identified significant association between metastasis and altered microbial communities. These findings using novel germfree mouse model of metastasis and cellular DNA barcoding technology provide first direct evidence that diverse microbial communities transmitted at birth play a critical role in protecting the host from clonal de novo mammary cell transformation and progression to systemic disease and thereby improving quality and duration of life.

Citation Format: Nagarajan Kannan, Syed Mohammed Musheer Aalam, Xiaojia Tang, Krishna Kalari, Purna Kashyap, Jun Chen, Stephen Johnson, Anguraj Sadanandam, Mark Sherman. Maternal microbiome protects host against clonal de novo transformation, early onset systemic metastasis, and sudden death [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr LB226.