Although novel therapies, including immunotherapy, have dramatically improved outcomes for many patients with cancer, overall outcomes are heterogeneous and existing biomarkers do not reliably predict response. To date, predictors of response to cancer therapy have largely focused on tumour-intrinsic features; however, there is growing evidence that other host factors (eg, host genomics and the microbiome) can substantially affect therapeutic response. The microbiome, which refers to microbiota within a host and their collective genomes, is becoming increasingly recognised for its influence on host immunity, as well as therapeutic responses to cancer treatment. Importantly, microbiota can be modified via several different strategies, affording new angles in cancer treatment to improve outcomes. In this Review, we examine the evidence on the role of the microbiome in cancer and therapeutic response, factors that influence and shape host microbiota, strategies to modulate the microbiome, and present key unanswered questions to be addressed in ongoing and future research.