The International Cancer Microbiome Consortium is an attempt to bring stakeholders together who work in the field of cancer microbiome research to create a consensus statement, really, on the role of the microbiome in cancer initiation and progression but also on its impact in cancer therapeutics. What we find is that the cancer microbiome field is rapidly evolving, almost exponentially, and it seems like every month we have new insight into its critical functions in cancer. But in that context what we need is to perhaps standardise some of the language, create definition and objectively review evidence to try and help the research community strategize their research.
Why is the ICMC meeting important?
What we have is several competing theories as to the role of the microbiome across multiple different cancers. We have evidence coming from multiple different fields: we have evidence from animal experiments, cell-lines and from human studies, although there’s really not that many human studies at the moment that are not cross-sectional. The majority of the studies are developing associations rather than really giving us new mechanistic insight. So the meeting is important because not only does it allow us to create a common language to communicate the science but it also allows us to identify where the significant holes are in our research and allows us to target those areas by creating new collaborations, new networks, sharing information, sharing data and translating this work into clinical practice as quickly as we can, really. Because that’s really what we’re interested in.
What do you have planned for the future of ICMC?
What we found was that there are a lot of international meetings on the microbiome, there are a lot of different interested parties in the microbiome but cancer seems to get mixed in with that somewhere. The emphasis initially in the early phase with the microbiome was on obesity and diabetes and multiple other chronic diseases but we felt that cancer requires a specific focus. So the aim of this meeting was to first of all bring stakeholders round the table but then we want this to progress. So this will be the first of many meetings because, of course, the data will continue to evolve, the evidence base will evolve. But there is also a requirement for education, there is also a requirement to educate not just other scientists but clinicians and, of course, patients because they’re the people that ultimately are going to help us in this research and benefit from it. We also want to inform how this work is funded and we want to ensure that those people that are responsible for funding this work, which we think is important, are able to fairly assess and critique and peer review that work as it’s presented to them.