How to control the diarrhea associated with chemotherapy

Some of the drugs used in chemotherapy to treat cancer have undesirable side effects. The drug irinotecan, which is used to treat solid tumors in advanced stages of colorectal cancer, often cause diarrhea in most patients.

Researchers have found that it is possible to control the diarrhea with certain medications and bacteria from the natural intestinal flora of people are involved in the process that causes diarrhea.

Your bacteria and your

In the external surface of the body and within the same living community of friendly bacteria, ie that they do not cause disease. These bacteria are of many different types and are more numerous than the cells of our own body. True, each of humans having more bacteria than human cells.

These bacteria, which form the microbiota, are an essential part of our body and, in many cases, play an important role for us to have good health, because, among other things, help us absorb certain nutrients, fight bacteria that cause disease, and regulate various body functions.

However, in some cases the normal activities of the microbiota bacteria can cause us problems. An example of these problems is the interaction of the bacteria with the anti-cancer drug mentioned above, irinotecan.

Your bacteria and drug irinotecan

Most patients taking irinotecan have diarrhea. The process involves diarrhea resulting in your microbiota and the normal process of your body to eliminate toxins.

When a cancer patient taking irinotecan, part of the drug taken acts against cancer and part is removed the body. To remove the drug from the body through the intestine, liver drug brand with a small sugar called glucuronic acid. The drug irinotecan labeled sugar is inactive and is not toxic to the gut, but is eliminated.

But it turns out that certain bacteria living in the gut like glucuronic acid (remember it is a type of sugar and bacteria use it as power supply). When the drug irinotecan marked with sugar enters the intestine, bacteria use special compounds (enzymes) to separate the drug sugar and consume sugar. But, losing the brand of sugar, the drug again be toxic and it causes diarrhea.

An important aspect that researchers have studied is the effect against diarrhea medicines in the effectiveness of drugs against cancer. In this case they found that drugs that prevent bacteria separate sugar does not affect the drug and drug effectiveness against the tumor.

Preventing diarrhea

By understanding the process leading to the development of diarrhea, researchers and doctors have been able to control it using drugs that neutralize the enzymes that separate the sugar irinotecan. This prevents the drug in the intestine is reactivated and therefore no diarrhea occurs or is markedly reduced.

From there, the man has been closely associated with its microbiota. The microbiota is our ally to prevent and combat all kinds of diseases, including cancer. The food or the medicines we consume also affect bacteria in our body. These effects can hurt or help.

More information

Bret Wallace, et al, “Structure and inhibition of beta-glucuronidase of microbiome essential to alleviate the toxicity of cancer drugs,” (in English), 2015; Chemistry & Biology, Vol. 22: 1-12.