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Bacterium in soil shows promise

6th September 2011

Scientists have said that a type of bacterium found in soil is showing potential as a delivery method for cancer drugs to reach tumours.

Bacteria

UK and Dutch researchers said the Clostridium sporogenes bacteria spores are able to get bigger in tumours as there is no oxygen there.

The scientists have managed to use genetic engineering to introduce an enzyme into the bacteria which activates a cancer drug.

The research will be presented at the Society of Microbiology's conference at the University of York.

The spores can get bigger in solid tumours, such as breast or brain tumours, and not in parts of the body where there is oxygen.

The teams, from the University of Nottingham and Maastricht University, genetically engineered the enzyme into the bacteria.

They then carried out tests on animals, where the drug was injected into the blood and was switched on in contact with the enzyme.

It was then capable of destroying cancer cells in the surrounding area.

Professor Nigel Minton, who led the research, said: "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, ie 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." 

 

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