Pancreatic Cancer: Possible Role for Probiotics

IPA AdminClinical Corner, Market Trends


Pancreatic cancer is a killer. In spite of advances in garnering its mechanism, the same cannot be said for treating this most fatal of cancers.

Researchers are looking to the microbiome.

Changes in diet, infection or lifestyle may disturb the normal symbiotic karma between host and the microbiota leading to cancer in the pancreas. As outlined by International Probiotic Association in past articles, probiotics may prevent cancer along the continuum of stages tracking cancerous growth and spread. Is it possible that probiotics may also have a role in preventing pancreatic cancer, the wanton growth that is found too late for any good outcome?

A 2016 article Role of Probiotics in Pancreatic Cancer Prevention: The Prospects and Challenges by Barkha Singhal and colleagues at the School of Biotechnology, Gauatm Buddha University in India addresses this question in an exhaustive review.

The following is taken from that paper.

Probiotic action in cancers in general:

  • Inactivation of carcinogenic compounds
  •  Competition with pathogens
  • Improvement of immune response
  • Prevention of growth

Data suggesting the probiotic- pancreatic cancer links:

  • Meat cooked at high heat creates heterocyclic aromatic amines which induce cancerous mutations. Probiotics attenuate this process; specific Lactobacillus strains bind or degrade these carcinogens.
  • Probiotics can also be used for “alleviation of the fungal mycotoxins and toxic heavy metals that can be the potential factors of pancreatic carcinogenesis,” according to the authors.
  • Probiotics affect outcomes in so-called lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes. For example, Lactobacillus reuteri supplement significantly improved diabetes biomarkers in recent research. In addition Lactobacillus plantarum, L. acidophilus, or L.casei in high-fat diet-induced obese mice improved obesity, diabetic and liver biomarkers. These disorders are directly linked to pancreatic health.

There exist very few studies appraising the role of probiotics in pancreatic cancer and these unfortunately are ambiguous. The researchers in the review paper attribute some of the differences in clinical outcomes to use of various strains species and dosage of probiotics as well as different prebiotic substrates.  In addition, the lack of large randomized control trials makes it harder to establish causation.

Yet, enough data suggest a potential role for synbiotics in pancreatic cancer prevention that future study is strongly encouraged for this most dire of diagnoses.