Ancient soil-dwelling bacteria help destroy cancer cells

5 September 2011

A harmless form of bacteria commonly found in soil could offer powerful new cancer treatment options for patients with tumours.

The clostridium sporogenes bacterium produces an enzyme which grows in tumours naturally when it is introduced to low-oxygen environments - such as dense brain, breast or prostate tumours.

In findings due to be presented at the Society of Microbiology's autumn conference at the University of York, researchers were able to successfully engineer an improved form of this enzyme which, when an anti-cancer drug is injected separately into the patient, activates and then targets cancer cells specifically and effectively.

"This therapy will kill all types of tumour cell," explained research leader Professor Nigel Minton of the University of Nottingham.

He added that following clinical trials due to take place at the University of Maastricht in 2013, the procedure could become "a frontline therapy for treating solid tumours".

A separate form of treatment for cancer cells exposed to oxygenated areas was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. It suggested that blocking a particular system that transports vital amino acids to cancerous growths could effectively starve and kill off the disease.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

1 Karunakaran, Senthil, et. al., "SLC6A14 (ATB0,+), a highly concentrative and broad-specific amino acid transporter, is a novel and effective drug target for treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer". Journal of Biological Chemistry. Tuesday July 19th 2011.

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