Cancer-fighting bacteria: Engineers program E. coli to destroy tumor cells, by Anne Trafton.
Researchers at MIT and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have recruited some new soldiers in the fight against cancer — bacteria.
In a study appearing in the July 20 of Nature, the scientists programmed harmless strains of bacteria to deliver toxic payloads. When deployed together with a traditional cancer drug, the bacteria shrank aggressive liver tumors in mice much more effectively than either treatment alone.
The new approach exploits bacteria’s natural tendency to accumulate at disease sites. Certain strains of bacteria thrive in low-oxygen environments such as tumors, and suppression of the host’s immune system also creates favorable conditions for bacteria to flourish.