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Can 50-year-old Salmonella Treat Cancer?

Salmonella has a distinct nature that makes bacteria penetrate through cell boundaries and multiply within its host. Currently, scientists have developed a non-toxic strain of Salmonella to penetrate and aim at cancer cells. Outcomes from this research might lead to promising new treatments that may effectively target and manage the spread of cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control stated that 48 million Americans contract food borne illnesses annually, with Salmonella being the main reason of illness. Salmonella has a distinct characteristic that allows the microorganism to penetrate through cell barriers and multiply inside its host. Now, scientists at the Cancer Research Center and the School of Missouri have developed a non-poisonous strain of Salmonella to penetrate and target cancerous cells. Reports from this study might lead to promising new therapies that actively target and manipulate the spread of cancer.

Salmonella and Cancer

“Salmonella strains have a natural preference for infiltrating and replicating within the cancer cells of a tumor, making the bacteria an ideal candidate for bacteriotherapy,” stated Robert Kazmierczak, a senior investigator on the Cancer Research Center and a post-doctoral fellow in the Division of Biological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Bacteriotherapy is the use of live bacteria as therapy to treat a medical condition, like cancer.”

Kazmierczak and the team at the Cancer Research Center (CRC) developed CRC2631, a Salmonella strain that has been genetically altered to render the microorganism nontoxic and increase its natural capability to aim and destroy cancer cells — without harming normal, healthy cells. The Salmonella strain was administered directly into the circulatory system of mice with prostate cancer.

“We found that the mice tolerated the treatment well and when examined, their prostate tumors decreased by about 20 percent compared to the control group,” Kazmierczak mentioned. “One of the most remarkable aspects of Salmonella is its ability to target, spread and persist inside the tumor. We are taking advantage of this ability by using Salmonella to carry or generate effective chemotherapeutic drugs, concentrating them at and throughout the tumor. The goal of this treatment is to develop a bacterial vector that can destroy the tumor from the inside out and reduce the amount of side effects endured by patients with cancer.”

Sample CRC2631

CRC2631 is obtained from a Salmonella sample that was kept in a test tube at room temperature for more than 50 years. The sample came from the Demerec collection, a set of mutant traces of Salmonella gathered by geneticist Milisav Demerec and curated by Abraham Eisenstark, scientific director at the CRC and professor emeritus of biological sciences at MU. The compilation includes over 20,000 distinctive samples of Salmonella, with half of the samples housed at the Cancer Research Center where the researchers affiliated with MU focus on three areas of cancer research: early detection, targeted treatment and new, effective chemotherapy.

“The uniqueness of CRC2631 differentiates our Salmonella strains from other universities trying to achieve the same goal; it is one of a kind,” Eisenstark added. “The strain of Salmonella we are using is essential to the success of our study.”

The study, “Salmonella Bacterial Monotherapy Reduces Autochthonous Prostate Tumor Burden in the TRAMP Mouse Model,” was recently published in PLOS ONE.

To read other interesting breakthroughs in medicine, feel free to read our other articles on this site.

Written by Lax Mariappan, Msc