Soil bacteria can help kill cancer by delivering drugs `straight into tumours`
Baku, September 12 (AZERTAC). An ancient bacteria found in soil has been used by scientists to target tumours and combat cancer.
The common bacterial strain grows in low oxygen environments and thrives in tumours when injected into the body, meaning it could be used as a vehicle to deliver drugs in cancer patients.
Spores of the Clostridium sporogenes bacterium are injected into patients and only grow in solid tumours, where a specific bacterial enzyme is produced.
An anti-cancer drug is injected separately into the patient in an inactive `pro-drug` form. When the pro-drug reaches the site of the tumour, the bacterial enzyme activates the drug, allowing it to destroy only the cells in its vicinity - the tumour cells.
Scientists at Nottingham University and the University of Maastricht hope to test the strain in patients in 2013 after overcoming hurdles preventing clinical trials.
They introduced a gene for a much-improved version of the enzyme into the C. sporogenes DNA. This improved enzyme can now be produced in far greater quantities in the tumour than previous versions, and is more efficient at converting the pro-drug into its active form.
Professor Nigel Minton, of the University of Nottingham 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, such as 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.`
He said the new therapy may ultimately lead to a simple and safe procedure for curing a wide range of solid tumours.
He added: `This therapy will kill all types of tumour cell. The treatment is superior to a surgical procedure, especially for patients at high risk or with difficult tumour locations.
`We anticipate that the strain we have developed will be used in a clinical trial in 2013 led by Jan Theys and Philippe Lambin at the University of Maastricht in The Netherlands.
`A successful outcome could lead to its adoption as a frontline therapy for treating solid tumours.
`If the approach is successfully combined with more traditional approaches this could increase our chance of winning the battle against cancerous tumours.`