Programming Bacteria to Kill Cancer Cells

July 28, 2015 -

One type of treatment that has been getting a lot of hype over the past few years is called Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to help fight and destroy cancer cells. Effective results have been shown to treat different types of cancer with this approach. Just recently, the Anti-PD1, treatment against the most serious type of skin cancer called melanoma, was approved by the FDA. It has become so effective against this type of cancer that chemotherapy, or radiation, is rarely necessary. This type of treatment has a substantial advantage over chemotherapy since negative side-effects like nausea, extreme pain, poor appetite, and life-threatening infections are highly unlikely. Furthermore, since immunotherapy teaches the immune system to destroy cancer cells, the recurrence of cancer in the future is improbable thus impacting cancer in a long-term way since the immune system has the ability to recognize the enemy.

Furthermore, there are promising studies on controlled bacteria to kill cancer cells in the area of immunotherapy. Roy Curtiss, a professor at the Arizona State University, has been running experiments on bacteria’s cancer killing properties. One of his most recent findings suggest that, when genetically modified to become less aggressive, some strains of Salmonella can take over and kill cancer cells. Although Salmonella contains toxic bacterias that can harm the patient, it may be taught to attack only cancer cells while preserving the healthy cells around it, if properly balanced.

In his most recent project, Curtiss genetically modified Salmonella, in which he lowered its level of toxicity but concomitantly maintained its efficacy by altering its lipopolysaccharide structure. After more alterations were made to the bacteria, Curtiss’ team injected it to mice with tumors. The outcomes of this experiment were very successful as the mice’s tumor had vanished entirely while healthy cells surrounding the tumors were left unharmed.

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