New approach to cancer treatment uses soil dwelling bacteria

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Advertisement

Researchers say it's possible to target and kill cancer cells using harmless bacteria in the soil. One of the problems with anti-cancer drugs is that they can destroy healthy tissue. Clostridium sporogenes has been developed by researchers to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to tumors.

Harmless bacterial enzyme activates cancer drugs to destroy tumors

Scientists at University of Nottingham and the University of Maastricht are using the bacteria Clostridium sporogenes, commonly found in the soil, to deliver drugs to tumors. The bacterium targets all types of tumors without causing harm to healthy cells.

The finding is presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of York.

The treatment, which is expected to enter trials in 2013, involves injecting patients with the Clostridia bacteria where it reaches solid cancer tumors where it is the only place it will grow. Once there, the bacterium produces a specific enzyme.

Separately, an anti-cancer drug is injected into the patient. The drug becomes activated by the enzyme after it reaches the tumor, only destroying cells in the vicinity of the cancer.

According to Professor Nigel Minton, who is leading the research, "Clostridia are an ancient group of bacteria that evolved on the planet before it had an oxygen-rich atmosphere and so they thrive in low oxygen conditions.

Advertisement

When Clostridia spores are injected into a cancer patient, they will only grow in oxygen-depleted environments, i.e. the centre of solid tumours. This is a totally natural phenomenon, which requires no fundamental alterations and is exquisitely specific. We can exploit this specificity to kill tumour cells but leave healthy tissue unscathed."

To make the bacterial enzyme more effective, the researchers introduced a gene into C sporogenes’ DNA. The result is higher efficiency. Introduction of the DNA makes Clostridia produce larger quantities of the enzyme in cancer tumors to activate the drugs.

Minton says the drug therapy; soil bacteria combination has the ability to destroy all types of cancerous tumor cells simply and effectively.

Using the harmless bacteria that comes from the soil can help patients with difficult to reach tumors who are not candidates for surgical resection.

Minton says the therapy shows much promise for battling cancer tumors.

“We anticipate that the strain we have developed will be used in a clinical trial in 2013 led by Jan Theys and Philippe Lambin at the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands.”

Using bacteria that comes from soil to deliver cancer drug therapy is a natural way to treat solid tumors that leaves healthy tissue intact – one of the current challenges in cancer therapy. The bacterial strain could soon be used as frontline cancer therapy.

Image credit: morguefile

Advertisement