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New 'gut bacteria' clinical study could help reduce side-effects of radiotherapy

Researchers will examine the role of gut bacteria in influencing the side-effects patients experience after radiotherapy, in the first clinical study of its type.

The study will be carried out by researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust alongside colleagues from Imperial College London.

One important side-effect of radiotherapy to the abdomen is gut problems, which are thought to be partly caused by the effect of radiation on gut bacteria. These bacteria – as explained in a recent post on The Institute of Cancer Research’s (ICR) Science Talk blog – are crucial in maintaining a healthy gut.

The study will examine how gut bacteria affect treatment response in 330 patients with prostate cancer who have had or are due to undergo radiotherapy, and is funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at The Royal Marsden and ICR, and the BRC at Imperial College. The study is a collaboration between the ICR and Imperial College London under their new joint Centre for Systems Oncology and Cancer Innovation.

The study also relies on the expertise of clinicians from The Royal Marsden’s Gastrointestinal Unit – a unique treatment and research unit with world-leading expertise in the effects of radiation on bowel function – and support from the Portugal-based Gulbenkian Foundation.

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