Association of Skin Microbiome Dynamics with Radiodermatitis in Patients with Breast Cancer

Claudia Hülpüsch, Avidan Uriel Neumann, Matthias Reiger, Julius Clemens Fischer, Amedeo De Tomassi, Gertrud Hammel, Carina Gülzow, Megan Fleming, Hendrik Dapper, Michael Mayinger, Marco Vogel, Christina Ertl, Stephanie Elisabeth Combs, Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, Kai Joachim Borm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Importance: The interindividual differences in severity of acute radiation dermatitis are not well understood. To date, the pathomechanism and interplay of microbiome and radiodermatitis before and during treatment remain largely unknown. Objective: To assess the association of skin microbiome baseline composition and dynamics with severity of radiodermatitis in patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy for breast cancer. Design, Setting, and Participants: A longitudinal prospective pilot observational study was conducted between January 2017 and January 2019. Sequencing results were received in March 2021, and the data were analyzed from August 2021 to March 2023. This study was performed at an urban academic university cancer center. A total of 21 female patients with breast cancer after surgery were consecutively approached, of which 1 patient withdrew consent before the study started. Exposure: Adjuvant radiotherapy for breast cancer for 7 weeks. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome was the association of baseline skin microbiome composition and its dynamics with the severity of radiodermatitis. A total of 360 skin microbiome samples from patients were analyzed, taken before, during, and after radiotherapy, from both the treated and contralateral healthy sides. The skin microbiome samples were analyzed using 16S (V1-V3) amplicon sequencing and quantitative polymerase chain reaction bacterial enumeration. Results: Twenty female patients with breast cancer after surgery who underwent radiotherapy enrolled in the study had a median (range) age of 61 (37-81) years. The median (range) body mass index of the patients was 24.2 (17.6-38.4). The 16S sequencing revealed that low (<5%) relative abundance of commensal skin bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus hominis, Cutibacterium acnes) at baseline composition was associated with the development of severe radiodermatitis with an accuracy of 100% (sensitivity and specificity of 100%, P <.001). Furthermore, in patients with severe radiodermatitis, quantitative polymerase chain reaction bacterial enumeration revealed a general non-species-specific overgrowth of skin bacterial load before the onset of severe symptoms. Subsequently, the abundance of commensal bacteria increased in severe radiodermatitis, coinciding with a decline in total bacterial load. Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this observational study indicated a potential mechanism associated with the skin microbiome for the pathogenesis of severe radiodermatitis, which may be a useful biomarker for personalized prevention of radiodermatitis in patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-521
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes

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