Probiotic as a food enhances efficacy of cancer treatment


Haritha Hari1 and Sindumathi Gurusamy2

1CMS College of Science and Commerce, Coimbatore

2Department FoodScience and Nutrition, Community Science College and Research Institute, TamilNadu Agricultural University, Madurai- 625104.

Correspondingauthor –



Probiotics are defined by theWorld Health Organization as "live microorganisms that, when administeredin adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host." The word"probiotic" means "for life." Research in the probioticfield has made significant advancements in the identification and characterizationof particular probiotic cultures over the past two decades and has validatedthe health advantages connected with them.


Probiotic organisms can begenetically modified bacteria for a particular outcome or naturally occurringmicrobes, as is the case for all microbes utilized in food. Probiotics' fullmechanism of action in the treatment of disease is unknown, although the maineffects thus far seem to be via colonization, competition, and immunemodulations.

The human gut microbiome benefitsby the usage of probiotics. Their primary benefit is the impact on the growth ofthe microbiota that inhabits the organism, which ensures a good balance betweenthe bacteria required for an organism to operate normally and pathogens. Thepreservation and restoration of intestinal homeostasis is made possible by thebeneficial effects of probiotics. Live microorganisms known as probiotics canhelp the host's health when given in sufficient doses.


Probiotics have become morewidely used in recent years to treat a variety of illnesses and to lessen theirsymptoms in many more. The use of certain probiotic bacteria to treat ailmentsand diseases like diarrhoea, pouchitis, cancer, ulcerative colitis, irritablebowel disease, and a host of others has increased. However, the main activityappears to be via modulation of immune responses (immunomodulations) and colonisation-competitiveshielding off of pathogens. The complete mechanisms of action of probiotics indisease management and promotion of the host's health remain mainly unclear. Inthis article, we focus on cancer disorders where probiotics have been utilisedto control and improve symptoms in an effort to steer clear of cancer.


Probiotics in the treatment/management of cancer

Cancer is a complex disorder,characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. There isnot yet a cure for cancer largely because the exact causes of most types ofcancer are still not known but however, it is a combination of variousmetabolic and physiologic disturbances in the cell, which are directly orindirectly related to the involvement of genetic makeup.

The use ofprobiotics in cancer treatment has become increasingly popular over the pastfew years, and several researchers have investigated their effects. In a recentstudy, researchers discovered that administering probiotics along with theirchemotherapy improved treatment outcomes in patients with non-small cell lungcancer. The study involved 56 participants, half of them received probioticsalong with their chemotherapy, while the other half received chemotherapyalone. According to the finding, those who received probiotics had a betterresponse to chemotherapy and fewer side effects than those who just receivedchemotherapy.


Probiotics exerttheir affects by altering microbiome, which is crucial for protecting theimmune system’s health. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer can harmthe gut microbiome, leading to dysbiosis, an imbalance of the gut microbiota.Dysbiosis can cause harmful side effects such as diarrhoea, appetite loss andweight loss which can further worsen quality of life in people with cancer. Byadministering probiotics, the balance of microbiome can be restored, resultingin fewer adverse effects and better treatment results.


Mechanism of Probiotics Action inCancer Prevention and Therapy

The anticarcinogenic activity of probiotics is based on: (1)modification of the intestinal microbiota composition, (2) metabolic activityof the intestinal microbiota, (3) production of compounds with anticarcinogenicactivity, such as short-chain fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, (4)inhibition of cell proliferation and induction apoptosis in cancer cells, (5)influence on other mutagenic and carcinogenic factors, (6) binding anddegradation of carcinogenic compounds present in the intestinal lumen, (7)immunomodulation and (8) improvement of the intestinal barrier. 



Table 1. Impact of probiotics in different types of cancer



Probiotic Strain

Type of Cancer

Potential Mechanism Of Action


Lactobacillus acidophilus

Breast cancer

Enhanced immune response, Inhibition of tumor cell growth


Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG

Colorectal cancer

Increased production of short-chain fatty acids, reduction in inflammation


Bifidobacterium bifidum


Increased anti tumor activity of immune cells


Streptococcus thermophilus

Lung cancer

Induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells


Source: (Badgeley etal., 2021)

Cancer and associated with dietmanagement


It is well established thatmaking certain lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking and eating anutritionally balanced diet, can lower the risk of acquiring many types ofcancer. The environment provides risk factors that start cancers, lead tomutations, or promote growth through genetic and epigenetic pathways.On thebasis of a balanced and full diet, nutrition may provide goods that can be usedto combat the root causes. The reduction of cancer risk through dietary changeshas received a lot of attention, notably the use of probiotics and an increasein the consumption of prebiotics. Yoghurt, cultured milk, and other fermentedmilk have been shown to have an opposite connection with cancer in severalcase-control studies. There are numerous reports on how L. acidophilus, L. casei, and Bifidobacteriumbifidum cultures reduce mutagenic activity.


Potential uses for probiotics increating nutritious foods

The demand for probiotic foodshas increased as a result of rising public awareness of diet-related healthissues and expanding scientific data supporting the advantages of probiotics.Yoghurt, frozen fermented dairy desserts, milk powder that has beenspray-dried, cheeses, ice cream, freeze-dried yoghurt, and fruit juices haveall been proposed as probiotic delivery solutions. According to some research,109CFU of probiotic bacteria per day are required to produce health benefits.Ithas been stated that a product should include at least 107 cells per g or mL ofa food, a quantity that was also advised in Japan, based on the dailyconsumption of 100 g or mL of probiotic food. In comparison to freshlyfermented foods (like yoghurt), cheeses have a variety of advantages fordelivering viable probiotics to the GI tract. Cheeses typically have a higherpH and a more solid consistency, and the cheese's matrix and relatively highfat content may provide probiotic bacteria with some protection while they movethrough the GI system.



Table 2 Details of the products that serve as carriers for probiotics






Dairy based

Sweet-acidophilus milk

Ice cream

Whey drink

Whey cheese

Natural-set yogurt

Low-fat cheddar cheese


L. gasseri

L. johnsonii

L. casei

B. animalis, L. acidophilus,

L. acidophilus, L. casei, Bifidobacterium

L. brevi, L. paracasei

L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum


Soy based


soy cream cheese




Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium,

Streptococcus thermophilus

 L. acidophilus  L. acidophilus, L. casei,

Bifidobacterium L. acidophilus., L. gasseri,  L. plantarum


Juice based

Tomato juices

Cabbage juices

Beet juice

Orange and pineapple juice

Carrot juice

Tomato, orange, and grape juice

L. casei A4, L. delbrueckii D7

 L. plantarum, L. acidophilus

L. plantarum, L. casei, L. delbrueckii

L. casei, L. rhamnosus GG,

L. paracasei, L. acidophilus LA39

 B. lactis Bb-12, B. bifidum B7.1, B3.2

 L. plantarum, L. acidophilus


Source: Nagpalet al 2012


In conclusion, probiotics arefrequently safe and well-tolerated, but it's crucial to speak with a doctor beforebeginning any probiotic therapy. Probiotics have a lot of potential as anadjuvant therapy in the fight against cancer, but further studies are needed toestablish the best dose and course of action. It will take more investigationto pinpoint the precise strains, strain traits, disease-specific treatments,antitumor effects, and the mechanisms by which these effects aremediated.Nevertheless, even with the aforementioned limitations in mind andawareness of the dearth of existing human trials, the use of probiotics forcancer prevention and illness management is intriguing, shows promise, andunquestionably merits further investigation. Future research should concentrateon determining which probiotic, prebiotic, or synbiotic will be most effectivefor a particular treatment. Serious investigation should also be made into thesafety of their use for medical purposes and any safety issues that mightprevent their proper use and judicious application of probiotics in diseasemanagement. Probiotics may eventually replace standard therapies for thetreatment of cancer as research into them continues.



Ravinder Nagpal, Ashwani Kumar,Manoj Kumar, Pradip V. Behare, Shalini Jain and Hariom Yadav. 2012. Probiotics, their health benefits and applicationsfor developing healthier foods: a review. Federation of EuropeanMicrobiological Societies. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.1-15. DOI:10.1111/j.1574-6968.2012.02593.x


Badgeley, A., Anwar, H., Modi, K.,Murphy, P., &Lakshmikuttyamma, A. (2021). Effect of probiotics and gutmicrobiota on anti-cancer drugs: Mechanistic perspectives. In Biochimica etBiophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer (Vol. 1875, Issue 1). Elsevier B.V.