Salmonella could be used to fight cancer

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 10, 2011 06:50 hrs

Scientists are using salmonella - the bacteria commonly transmitted through food that sickens people - to fight cancers of the gut.

They believe salmonella may be a valuable tool in the fight against cancer in organs surrounding the gut - such as the liver, spleen, and colon - since that's where salmonella naturally infects the body.

Researchers want to 'weaponize' salmonella, allowing the bacteria to then attack cancer cells in its natural environment.

Trials in animals have already shown salmonella can successfully control tumors in the gut. Human clinical trials are already underway and are showing promise.

"Many bacteria and viruses - even harmful ones - can be used to fight disease," said Edward Greeno, lead researcher on the clinical study and Medical Director of the Masonic Cancer Clinic. "We believe it may even be possible to use bacteria to fight cancer."

Greeno's Medical School colleague, Dan Saltzman, genetically modified a batch of salmonella to weaken it and added Interleukin 2, or IL-2.

"You could think of IL-2 as a guard dog that sniffs around looking for threats inside the body," he said.

When it finds one, it calls in an attack by the immune system.

Researchers knew if they could make IL-2 near tumors, it would identify the cancerous cells as a threat and trigger an immune response near the tumor.

Salmonella naturally finds its way to a person's gut and associated tissues. Salmonella also naturally likes to grow inside of tumor cells. Hence, if you're looking for ways to treat cancer in the bowels, the nearby lymph nodes or the liver - salmonella is a perfect method to deliver a package of IL-2.

In a nutshell, by using genetically modified salmonella packaged with IL-2, Medical School researchers have created a kind of two-prong attack on cancer - the immune response called in by IL-2, and the salmonella itself.

The therapy is administered simply - mixed with a few ounces of water and imbibed orally. (ANI)

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