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Fungi and cancer
  1. Aurelia Saftien1,2,
  2. Jens Puschhof1,
  3. Eran Elinav1,3
  1. 1Microbiome and Cancer Division, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany
  2. 2Faculty of Biosciences, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
  3. 3Department of Systems Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
  1. Correspondence to Prof. Eran Elinav, Systems Immunology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Central, Israel; eran.elinav{at}; e.elinav{at}; Jens Puschhof; jens.puschhof{at}


The microbiome may impact cancer development, progression and treatment responsiveness, but its fungal components remain insufficiently studied in this context. In this review, we highlight accumulating evidence suggesting a possible involvement of commensal and pathogenic fungi in modulation of cancer-related processes. We discuss the mechanisms by which fungi can influence tumour biology, locally by activity exerted within the tumour microenvironment, or remotely through secretion of bioactive metabolites, modulation of host immunity and communications with neighbouring bacterial commensals. We examine prospects of utilising fungi-related molecular signatures in cancer diagnosis, patient stratification and assessment of treatment responsiveness, while highlighting challenges and limitations faced in performing such research. In all, we demonstrate that fungi likely constitute important members of mucosal and tumour-residing microbiomes. Exploration of fungal inter-kingdom interactions with the bacterial microbiome and the host and decoding of their causal impacts on tumour biology may enable their harnessing into cancer diagnosis and treatment.

  • Intestinal microbiology
  • Cancer

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  • JP and EE are joint senior authors.

  • Twitter @Elinav_DKFZ ; @Elinav_lab

  • Contributors All authors actively participated in data gathering, integration and writing of the review.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests EE is a scientific co-founder of DayTwo and BiomX, and an advisor to Hello Inside, Igen and Aposense in topics unrelated to this work. The remaining authors declare no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.