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Developing a microbial-supported precision oncology therapy


The project management is responsible for the content of the information provided.


This project is one of the seven winners of the «Microbials - Direct Use of Micro-Organisms», call 2019. Project partners: Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Zürich; PharmaBiome; Cambridge MA USA; Oncology, Center for Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital Zürich

Project data

  • Project no: GRS-077/19 
  • Amount of funding: CHF 300'000 
  • Approved: 30.10.2019 
  • Duration: 04.2020 - 03.2021 
  • Area of activity:  Microbials, seit 2016

Project management

Project description

The intestinal microbiota plays a key role in human health and disease. Current knowledge, however, is often limited to associations between intestinal bacteria and human diseases. Our functional understanding about the interplay between the intestinal microbiota and immunologic and metabolic events in the human body are scarce. This lack of understanding limits our ability to use the intestinal microbiota as therapeutic agent in human diseases. The metabolomic products of the microbiome but also bacterial antigens support physiological integrity, but also closely regulate the immune system. Colorectal cancer (CRC), one of the most prominent cancers with increasing incidence rates, originates at the crossroads of the microbiome and its host. Besides genetically predisposing factors, CRC is strongly influenced by the inflammatory status of the tissue, the presence of carcinogenic substances and the regulation of the host’s immune response. The link of the intestinal bacteria to these functions is well established, the biological understanding of the modes of action is, however, in its infancy. Due to limited knowledge on how to cultivate strict anaerobic gut bacteria, that form the majority of the gut microbes, most studies rely on molecular methods only to study the impact of the microbiome on this life-shortening disease. Within our project, we aim to identify, optimize and validate a microbial-supported precision oncology therapy that can be used to treat human CRC.

What is special about the project?

Our project shows first data suggesting, that CRC can be treated by a bacterial consortium (mix of bacteria that modulates tumor growth through specific stimulation of the immune system. Our approach combines advanced cultivation and isolation methods with multiple CRC in vivo models. This unique combination allows to disentangle and functionally understand the anti-tumor effects of our bacterial consortia or bacterial functions. Our goal is to develop an innovative and effective solution capable to revert the causative dysbalance of the intestinal microbiome and human immune system in CRC development. We will thus deliver the first, curative treatment for CRC using viable bacteria as therapeutic agent and want to perform its full translation into the clinical trial setting by a first-in man study within 3-5 years.


Project starts on 1 January 2020


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Persons involved in the project

Prof. Dr. med. Michael Scharl, Project Leader; Head of Research, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Zürich, Rämistrasse 100, 8091 Zürich, Switzerland
Dr. Ana Montalban-Arques, PhD, in the lab of Prof. Scharl
Egle Katkeviciute, PhD student in the lab of Prof. Scharl

Last update to this project presentation  07.04.2021