Melanoma Res. 2023 Feb 20:e000871. doi: 10.1097/CMR.0000000000000871. Online ahead of print.
The gut microbiome acts as a tumor-extrinsic regulator of responses to immune-checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) targeting PD-1 and CTLA-4 receptors. Primary resistance to anti-PD-1 ICI can be reversed via responder-derived fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in patients with refractory melanoma. Efforts to create stool banks for FMT have proved difficult. Therefore, we aimed to establish a novel donor-screening program to generate responder-derived FMT for use in PD-1 refractory melanoma. Candidate PD-1 responder donors and PD-1 refractory recipients were recruited via clinic-based encounters at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals. Eligible donors and recipients underwent physician assessment and screening of serum, stool and nasopharynx for transmissible agents, which included SARS-CoV-2 modification. The cost of donor and recipient screening was calculated. Initially, 29 donors were screened with 14 eligible donors identified after exclusion; of the 14 donors, eight were utilized in clinical trials. The overall efficiency of screening was 48%. Seroprevalence rates for cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, HSV-2, HHV-6, HTLV-1, HTLV-2, and syphilis were similar to published statistics from healthy blood donors in the USA. Donor stool studies indicated a 3.6% incidence of E. histolytica and norovirus, 3.7% incidence of giardia and 7.1% incidence of C. difficile. A single donor tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in stool only. The cost for finding a single eligible donor was $2260.24 (pre-COVID) and $2,460.24 (post-COVID). The observed screening efficiency suggests that a well-resourced screening program can generate sufficient responder-derived donor material for clinical trial purposes. Eliminating testing for low-prevalence organisms may improve cost-effectiveness.