Streptococcal bacteria ‘could help fight colon cancer’

21 May 2014

The bacteria primarily responsible for streptococcal pharyngitis could be used to help cure colon cancer, according to new research from the University of Western Ontario.  

In the study, scientists were able to force the immune system to recognise and fight cancer cells by engineering a streptococcal bacterial toxin that attaches itself to tumour cells.

The research team demonstrated that the engineered bacterial toxin had the ability to significantly reduce the size of colon cancer malignancies, while also minimising the spread of the disease.

Using mice models that had been stripped of their immune system, scientists were able to create a ‘humanised mouse’. These animals grew human cancer cells and supported a human immune system, allowing the team to test the anti-cancer immunotherapy.

Dr John McCormick, lead author of the research, said: “Our team has been studying these bacterial toxins called 'superantigens' for their role in bacterial infections. But we are now utilising the power of these toxins to re-direct the immune system to go after cancer cells.

"This work represents a 'next-generation immunotoxin' that we hope will eventually lead to a new class of cancer therapeutic."

Dr McCormick and his colleagues have been granted funding from the Cancer Research Society to continue their research and to develop different toxin and antibody combinations to fight other types of cancer.

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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