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Could the gut microbiome be a key to improved drug efficacy with less toxicity?

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Microorganisms may get a bad rap in a setting like a hospital, but in the world of research, they’re offering fascinating new insights into human health and disease.

One group of researchers, for example, has linked microbial changes in the gut to the dose-limiting gastrointestinal side effects of certain drugs, and under a newly formed startup called Symberix, they’re testing an inhibitor they think could reduce those effects.

The story starts in the lab of University of North Carolina professor of chemistry Matt Redinbo. A colleague’s battle with cancer, and the gruesome side effects of her treatment, led him to take interest in the cancer drug irinotecan (CPT-11), a chemotherapy agent used against solid tumors, often colorectal and pancreatic cancers. It’s a very effective drug, as most chemotherapy drugs are, he said, but its efficacy can sometimes be limited by severe diarrhea.
 
 

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