One of the many problems with treating tumours, has always been finding ways to target the cancer cells, without causing high levels of damage to healthy tissue along the way. But now, a common bacteria found in soil may provide the answer, by making sure that cancer drugs are only activated when they’re at the site of a tumour.
The treatment usesClostridium sporogenes, a bacteria which, when injected into the body, only grows in solid tumours, due to the presence of a particular bacterial enzyme. Cancer fighting drugs are then injected into the body separately and activated upon contact with Clostridium sporogenes. This allows the drug to target and destroy the cancer cells whilst minimising damage to the body’s other tissues. Professor Nigel Minton, the lead researcher on the project, explains:
“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. 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”
It is hoped that the research will eventually lead to a safe and effective means of treating a wide range of solid tumours in the body without the need for surgery. This would be especially beneficial for patients with tumours in hard to reach or sensitive areas. Professor Minton is optimistic that the treatment will be ready for trials in human patients in the near future.
“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. A successful outcome could lead to its adoption as a frontline therapy for treating solid tumours. If the approach is successfully combined with more traditional approaches this could increase our chance of winning the battle against cancerous tumours.”
Source : Science Daily