Conversion of unresponsiveness to immune checkpoint inhibition by fecal microbiota transplantation in patients with metastatic melanoma: study protocol for a randomized phase Ib/IIa trial.



The gut microbiome plays an important role in immune modulation. Specifically, presence or absence of certain gut bacterial taxa has been associated with better antitumor immune responses. Furthermore, in trials using fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) to treat melanoma patients unresponsive to immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), complete responses (CR), partial responses (PR), and durable stable disease (SD) have been observed. However, the underlying mechanism determining which patients will or will not respond and what the optimal FMT composition is, has not been fully elucidated, and a discrepancy in microbial taxa associated with clinical response has been observed between studies. Furthermore, it is unknown whether a change in the microbiome itself, irrespective of its origin, or FMT from ICI responding donors, is required for reversion of ICI-unresponsiveness. To address this, we will transfer microbiota of either ICI responder or nonresponder metastatic melanoma patients via FMT.

TRIAL REGISTRATION NCT05251389 (registered 22-Feb-2022). Protocol V4.0 (08-02-2022).


Transplanting fecal microbiota to restore the patients' perturbed microbiome has proven successful in several indications. However, less is known about the potential role of FMT to improve antitumor immune response. In this trial, we aim to investigate whether administration of FMT can reverse resistance to anti-PD-1 treatment in patients with advanced stage melanoma, and whether the ICI-responsiveness of the feces donor is associated with its effectiveness.


In this randomized, double-blinded phase Ib/IIa trial, 24 anti-PD1-refractory patients with advanced stage cutaneous melanoma will receive an FMT from either an ICI responding or nonresponding donor, while continuing anti-PD-1 treatment. Donors will be selected from patients with metastatic melanoma treated with anti-PD-1 therapy. Two patients with a good response (≥ 30% decrease according to RECIST 1.1 within the past 24 months) and two patients with progression (≥ 20% increase according to RECIST 1.1 within the past 3 months) will be selected as ICI responding or nonresponding donors, respectively. The primary endpoint is clinical benefit (SD, PR or CR) at 12 weeks, confirmed on a CT scan at 16 weeks. The secondary endpoint is safety, defined as the occurrence of grade ≥ 3 toxicity. Exploratory endpoints are progression-free survival and changes in the gut microbiome, metabolome, and immune cells.

More about this publication

BMC cancer
  • Volume 22
  • Issue nr. 1
  • Pages 1366
  • Publication date 30-12-2022

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