Bacteria May Shrink Cancerous Tumors

A new study shows that bacterial therapy has promising effects in targeting cancer cells.

Researchers at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center in Houston have found that bacterial therapy has manageable toxicity levels and can help shrink some resilient cancer tumors. In the new study, the researchers used the bacterial strain Clostridium novyi-NT because of its ability to thrive in a hypoxic (oxygen-free) environment, which is the type of environment found in cancerous lesions. This allows C. novyi-NT to attack cancer cells without affecting healthy ones. The study co-author Dr. Filip Janku reports to Medical News Today, “By exploiting the inherent differences between healthy and cancerous tissue, C. novyi-NT represents a very precise anti-cancer therapeutic that can specifically attack a patient’s cancer.” This is crucial because in the past implementing bacterial therapies was not feasible due to adverse side effects.

In this clinical trial, researchers worked with 24 participants recruited in 2013-2017 who all had solid cancer tumors that were resistant to therapy. The researchers administered injections of C. noyvi-NT directly into the cancerous tumors and then measured whether or not the tumors shrunk in response to the bacterial therapy treatment. Dr. Janku states, “Even after a single injection of this bacterial therapy, we see biological and, in some patients, clinically meaningful activity.” The results found that 46 percent of the total number of participants showed spore germination and displayed signs of tumor cell disintegration. Despite the absence of clinical signs of germination in some patients, there was an improved tumor-specific immune response. Dr. Janku states, “From these preliminary results, it appears that C. novyi-NT is able to activate the immune response besides causing tumor destruction.” This suggests that bacterial therapies may one day be used to boost the effects of immunotherapy in cancer treatment. The researchers were extremely encouraged by the results of this trial and hopefully, there will continue to be progressive advances in treating cancer.

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