The Microbiome and Genitourinary Cancer: A Collaborative Review

Mark C. Markowski, Stephen A. Boorjian, Jeremy P. Burton, Noah M. Hahn, Molly A. Ingersoll, Saman Maleki Vareki, Sumanta K. Pal, Karen S. Sfanos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Context: The recent discovery of the existence of a human genitourinary microbiome has led to the investigation of its role in mediating the pathogenesis of genitourinary malignancies, including bladder, kidney, and prostate cancers. Furthermore, although it is largely recognized that members of the gastrointestinal microbiota are actively involved in drug metabolism, new studies demonstrate additional roles and the potential necessity of the gastrointestinal microbiota in dictating cancer treatment response. Objective: To summarize the current evidence of a mechanistic role for the genitourinary and gastrointestinal microbiome in genitourinary cancer initiation and treatment response. Evidence acquisition: We conducted a literature search up to October 2018. Search terms included microbiome, microbiota, urinary microbiome, bladder cancer, urothelial carcinoma, renal cell carcinoma, kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and prostate cancer. Evidence synthesis: There is preliminary evidence to implicate the members of the genitourinary microbiota as causative factors or cofactors in genitourinary malignancy. Likewise, the current evidence for gastrointestinal microbes in dictating cancer treatment response is mainly correlative; however, we provide examples where therapeutic agents used for the treatment of genitourinary cancers are affected by the human-associated microbiota, or vice versa. Clinical trials, such as fecal microbiota transplant to increase the efficacy of immunotherapy, are currently underway. Conclusions: The role of the microbiome in genitourinary cancer is an emerging field that merits further studies. Translating microbiome research into clinical action will require incorporation of microbiome surveillance into ongoing and future clinical trials as well as expansion of studies to include metagenomic sequencing and metabolomics. Patient summary: This review covers recent evidence that microbial populations that reside in the genitourinary tract—and were previously not known to exist—may influence the development of genitourinary malignancies including bladder, kidney, and prostate cancers. Furthermore, microbial populations that exist at sites outside of the genitourinary tract, such as those that reside in our gut, may influence cancer development and/or treatment response. There is evidence that the urinary microbiome influences the development of genitourinary malignancies, including bladder, kidney, and prostate cancers. Furthermore, the gastrointestinal microbiota may also influence genitourinary cancer development and/or treatment response via effects on drug metabolism and systemic immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-646
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Urology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Bladder cancer
  • Immunotherapy
  • Kidney cancer
  • Microbiome
  • Prostate cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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