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Non-small cell lung cancer, immunity and microbiota : laying ground for the gut-lung-lung cancer axis in human subjects

Abstract : Lung cancer is the main cause of death by cancer worldwide. Despite the variety of available treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immune therapy, the average 5-year survival is 60%. One of the underlying reasons is a very high variability in patients’ susceptibility to treatment, explained by genetic background and since recently – our microbiota. The term microbiota includes bacteria, archaea, fungi, viruses and protists that inhabit our organism. The studies in animal models show that the gut microbiota (focused on bacteria) has a crucial role in host’s responsiveness to therapy through the stimulation of immune system. In this light, several “communication axes” between the gut and distal tumour sites have started to develop, including the “gut-lung” axis. However, the resident microbiota in the lungs that could directly influence the tumour response and interact with the gut microbiota has been scarcely characterised. To enable further development of the idea of the “gut-lung-lung cancer” axis, we included 18 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients eligible for surgery and analysed the microbiota from four different lung samples (non-malignant, peritumoural and tumour tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid; BAL), saliva and faeces by high-throughput sequencing. We also analysed several immune markers, as lymphocytic tumour infiltrate, Th and neutrophil profiles and cytokines in BAL and blood, and inflammatory markers in faeces along with short-chain fatty acids. Focusing first on the lungs, we show that BAL microbiota represents a significantly distinct community compared to lung tissue microbiota by providing detailed characterisation of the four different lung samples. Since tumours in lower lobes are reported as the ones with the worse prognosis, we investigated how the lobe location affected the microbiota composition. Peritumoural tissue and BAL microbiota were identified as the most affected in both abundance and diversity, and tumour as the least affected. However, phylum Firmicutes, previously reported as elevated in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to controls, was found more abundant in microbiota from lower lung lobes. Therefore, we propose that both increase in Firmicutes and extensive changes in peritumoural tissue could be associated to increased aggressiveness of the lower lobe tumours. Next, we show that the presence of metastatic lymph nodes (LN), negative prognostic marker in NSCLC, significantly influence the local tissue microbiota in relation to its respiratory profile. We reported that anaerobic bacteria were more abundant within the tumour in the presence of metastatic LN, and aerobic bacteria within the one without it. Moreover, exactly inverse was observed for the same bacteria in extratumoural tissues. Along with migratory hypothesis depending on the bacterial preference for growth conditions shaped by tumour’s features, we propose several biomarkers for detection of metastatic LN that might facilitate their detection without imposing LN biopsy. Finally, we showed that BAL microbiota is the most associated to the local immune response and independent of the presence of metastatic LN. Future research will focus on the exploration of the interaction between the lung microbiota, systemic immunity and the gut microbiota.
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Rea Bingula. Non-small cell lung cancer, immunity and microbiota : laying ground for the gut-lung-lung cancer axis in human subjects. Cancer. Université Clermont Auvergne, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019CLFAS009⟩. ⟨tel-02560553⟩

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