Maternal obesity and resistance to breast cancer treatments among offspring: Link to gut dysbiosis

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Background: About 50 000 new cases of cancer in the United States are attributed to obesity. The adverse effects of obesity on breast cancer may be most profound when affecting the early development; that is, in the womb of a pregnant obese mother. Maternal obesity has several long-lasting adverse health effects on the offspring, including increasing offspring's breast cancer risk and mortality. Gut microbiota is a player in obesity as well as may impact breast carcinogenesis. Gut microbiota is established early in life and the microbial composition of an infant's gut becomes permanently dysregulated because of maternal obesity. Metabolites from the microbiota, especially short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), play a critical role in mediating the effect of gut bacteria on multiple biological functions, such as immune system, including tumor immune responses. Recent Findings: Maternal obesity can pre-program daughter's breast cancer to be more aggressive, less responsive to treatments and consequently more likely to cause breast cancer related death. Maternal obesity may also induce poor response to immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICB) therapy through increased abundance of inflammation associated microbiome and decreased abundance of bacteria that are linked to production of SCFAs. Dietary interventions that increase the abundance of bacteria producing SCFAs potentially reverses offspring's resistance to breast cancer therapy. Conclusion: Since immunotherapies have emerged as highly effective treatments for many cancers, albeit there is an urgent need to enlarge the patient population who will be responsive to these treatments. One of the factors which may cause ICB refractoriness could be maternal obesity, based on its effects on the microbiota markers of ICB therapy response among the offspring. Since about 40% of children are born to obese mothers in the Western societies, it is important to determine if maternal obesity impairs offspring's response to cancer immunotherapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1752
JournalCancer Reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge funding support from Hormel Institute and National Insitute of Health (grant R21 CON000000090906).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Cancer Reports published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • gut microbiome
  • immunotherapy
  • maternal obesity
  • offspring
  • short chain fatty acids


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