Bacteria E. coli, usually associated with food poisoning, could hold the key to a new way of attacki...
Bacteria E. coli, usually associated with food poisoning, could hold the key to a new way of attacking cancer cells, according to scientists at Cancer Research UK. New research has found that a safe and effective treatment could be provided by infecting tumours with genetically engineered forms of E. coli.
E. coli bacteria is naturally found in the human gut and is normally harmless, however a few strains can cause food poisoning. Scientists taking part in the study modified the bacteria so it could no longer grow, divide or cause disease. The genetic modifications allowed the E. coli to deliver cancer-killing protein molecules inside the cancer cells.
"It's notoriously difficult to get some types of therapeutic molecule inside cancer cells, which is why we turned to living organisms to do the job for us," explained Dr Georges Vaseaux, lead researcher at Cancer Research UK's molecular oncology initiative.
"With a few important genetic modifications, we were able to turn bacteria into efficient delivery capsules, which could penetrate the outside membrane of cancer cells."
During the study, over 90% of cancer cells invaded by the bacteria were killed by the drug it carried - called MPDR - compared with less than 15% of non-invaded cells.
Cancer Research UK's director of clinical and external affairs, Professor Robert Souhami, said the results were an important step. "Developing new drugs tends to grab the headlines, but equally important is the development of new systems to efficiently deliver treatments to cancer cells. Using bacteria to treat tumours is an innovative new approach to the problem. It could open up exciting new avenues of cancer treatment"