Soil Bacteria Could Improve Cancer Therapy

Clostridium sporogenes work with anti-cancer drugs to treat solid tumors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The bacteria are found all around us - in the soil. And now scientists are finding that spores containing this bacterium successfully kill cancer.

A harmless soil bacterium known as Clostridium sporogenes has been found to work with cancer drugs to kill tumor cells. These are the findings of recent study conducted at the University of Nottingham and the University of Maastricht.

"Soil bacteria may help anti-cancer drugs do their work."

Researchers have found that when spores of the bacterium are injected into solid tumors, a bacterial enzyme is created. Next, a cancer drug is injected in an inactive state, what's called a pro-drug form.

When the pro-drug gets to the tumor the enzyme makes the drug active to kill only tumor cells.

Previous work with these bacteria faced problems and prevented it from being tested in clinical trials. Scientists resolved these dilemmas by introducing a new version of the enzyme that activates the drugs.

This new enzyme works more efficiently inside the tumor to destroy cancer cells,

What makes clostridia so useful is the fact that these bacteria thrive in low-oxygen conditions, according to lead researcher, Professor Nigel Minton. And the centers of solid tumors have little or no oxygen.

Minton says this process "is exquisitely specific," meaning the bacteria target only cancer cells, while leaving healthy tissue untouched. The belief is that this therapy could be used to treat a wide range of solid tumors.

Researchers are hoping to begin clinical trials in 2013.

Findings from this study were presented at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference. Until research is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's considered preliminary.

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Review Date: 
September 7, 2011
Last Updated:
September 8, 2011