A cancer cure from cat poop?
New research shows a parasite commonly found in cat poop could potentially cure cancer. According to David J. Bzik, PhD, professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, the parasite T. gondii has the ability to stimulate the immune system in the exact way needed to kill cancer tumors.
Nature's own cancer fighter
“We know biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer,” Bzik said in a press release.
According to background information from the study authors, the parasite affects more than 60 million Americans. For some, flu-like symptoms can occur. Most people have no symptoms.The parasite can be deadly for those with suppressed immune systems who can't fight the infection.
In addition to being found in cat intestines and in cat feces, the parasite is also found in the soil
T. gondii has the ability to "jump start" the immune system that can be shut down by cancer.
"The biology of this organism is inherently different from other microbe-based immunotherapeutic strategies that typically just tickle immune cells from the outside,” said Barbara Fox, senior research associate of Microbiology and Immunology.
Fox explained further that "mutated" T. gondii used in the study can reprogram the immune system to clear the body of cancer.
Cat poop parasite turned into a cancer vaccine
To make T. gondii safe for cancer patients Bzik and Fox created "cps" - a vaccine grown in the lab that is safe because it can't reproduce but still maintains it's other properties.
“Aggressive cancers too often seem like fast moving train wrecks. Cps is the microscopic, but super strong, hero that catches the wayward trains, halts their progression, and shrinks them until they disappear,” said Bzik
High rates of cancer survivor with vaccine
Mice with aggressive and lethal forms of melanoma and ovarian cancer were studied for the cps vaccine. The results, according to the study author's press release was "unprecedented high rates of cancer survival."
Bzik explained the T.gondii derived vaccine breaks cancer's "leverage" on the immune system and is a highly effective immunotherapy that is "superior to anything seen before."
One of the ways the vaccine could be used Bzik said is by individualizing the therapy by introducing it to cells that are isolated from the patient and then giving it back to the patient. The vaccine would then generate an immune response that would eradicate cancer and protect from future cancers.
The next step is to study the vaccine derived from the cat poop parasite further to find out why it works so well. Bzik says immunotherapy with cps holds great promise for treating cancers.
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