While bacterial infections usually are a bad thing, they can now be used as a therapy to treat medical conditions, for instance, cancer.
A team of scientists is now looking to use microbial mechanisms for cell invasion to treat various types of cancer. They recently published data in which they describe the development of a nontoxic strain of Salmonella that can be used to find and penetrate cancer cells in our body.
“Salmonella strains have a natural preference for infiltrating and replicating within the cancer cells of a tumor, making the bacteria an ideal candidate for bacteriotherapy,” said Robert Kazmierczak, a senior investigator at the Cancer Research Center and a post-doctoral fellow in the Division of Biological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.
The bacteria has been genetically modified to be nontoxic and improve its natural ability to target and kill cancer cells, but without harming healthy cells.
The Salmonella strain was administered directly into the circulatory system of mice with prostate cancer and the results were promising; mice tolerated the treatment well and their prostate tumors decreased by about 20 percent compared to the control group.
“One of the most remarkable aspects of Salmonella is its ability to target, spread and persist inside the tumor. We are taking advantage of this ability by using Salmonella to carry or generate effective chemotherapeutic drugs, concentrating them at and throughout the tumor. The goal of this treatment is to develop a bacterial vector that can destroy the tumor from the inside out and reduce the amount of side effects endured by patients with cancer.” Kazmierczak said.
While the technology probably needs more testing and refinement, these results could lead to new treatments with high precision and control of cancer spread.
By Žan Pirc, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana