well as the resources available through the Cancer Center s core shared facilities, the Cancer Center identified the microbiome as an extremely promising area of research and incorporated it into the center s strategic plan.

Thanks to the leadership and continuing support of the Cancer Center, we now have the ability to do these microbiome studies, Dr. Morrow says. From additional support by the UAB School of Medicine, the Center for AIDS Research and the Center for Clinical Translational Science, we are now able to reach out to many investigators and offer them the opportunity to do microbiome analyses and provide them with the pre- liminary data needed for manuscripts and grants. This is an exciting area that can potentially impact many dif- ferent scientific concepts and turn UAB into an inter- national leader in microbiome research.

Many of these studies involve faculty members of the Cancer Center, with projects ranging from studies in animal models to nutrition studies to fecal

transplants for chemotherapy patients. For example, Cancer Center senior scientists Wendy Demark- Wahenfried, Ph.D., R.D., and Laura Rogers, M.D., are examining the impact of nutrition and exercise on the microbiome of breast and prostate cancer patients. Neuro-oncologist Burt Nabors, M.D., is studying how microbiome changes in patients undergoing treatment for brain tumors impacts their energy metabolism. Meanwhile, Cancer Center associate scientists Monica Baskin, Ph.D., and Tiffany Carson, Ph.D., are study- ing the interplay among race, stress, weight and the microbiome in minority and underserved women.

Another study, led by senior scientist Christine Skibola, Ph.D., will examine fecal specimens from breast cancer patients to determine the effects of certain dietary supplements on the microbiome, particularly the gut bacteria. (See Scientist Profile on page 15). The biospecimens will be collected from these women and then transplanted into animal models so that researchers can perform various analyses. Dr. Skibola hopes that the

results of this innovative study will lead to a larger-scale grant for further research.

In terms of fecal transplantation, that work is being pioneered at UAB by Martin Rodriguez, M.D., an associate professor in the UAB Department of Infectious Diseases. A fecal transplant is exactly what it sounds like transfer- ring the fecal specimen of one human into another. The idea is if a cancer patient has a microbiome that is out of whack, putting the microbiome back in harmony via transplant will improve the patient s outcomes and overall quality of life. While the procedure might not cure the disease, it could potentially make the treatments more effective.

The normal function of the gut microbiome is to convert your food to energy, and a disruption of the microbi- ome will lead to an energy imbalance, Dr. Morrow says. One of the most common side effects of cancer treat- ments is fatigue. Some cancer drugs not

4 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

Yes or No?Probiotics and Antibiotics: Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance

of organisms in the intestines, but the term is also used to describe

dietary supplements and other foods that can be consumed to alter

the microbiome. For example, yogurts, such as Activia, are a good

source of probiotics, but you have to eat a tremendous amount

of yogurt to make a significant impact on your microbiome. That s

because there are 100 trillion microbes in the gut, and yogurt will

only add a few million. A better option is to change your diet, par-

ticularly increasing your fiber intake.

Antibiotics, such as soaps and hand-sanitizers, have become a

staple in many people s lives in recent years. The drawback to anti-

biotics, however, is that they don t know the difference between a

good microbe and a bad microbe. While overusing antibiotics can

wipe out your microbes, the microbiome does come back for most

healthy people, which is essential for a healthy immune system.

The Cancer

Center identified

the microbiome

as an extremely

promising area

of research and

incorporated it

into the center s

strategic plan.

continued from page 3