Neil Forbes of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has received a 4-year grant of over US$1 mln from the National Institutes of Health to research killing cancer tumours with Salmonella bacteria.
According to News-Medical, Forbes turns the bacteria into tiny terminator robots that use their own flagella to venture deep into tumours where conventional chemotherapy can apparently not reach. Once in place, the bacteria manufacture drugs that trigger cancer cells to kill themselves.
“When we get the Salmonella bacteria into the part of the tumour where we want them to be, we’ve programmed them to go ape,” says Forbes. “We have the bacteria release a drug to trigger a receptor in cancer cells called the “death receptor,” which induces cancer cells to kill themselves. We’ve already done this in the lab. We’ve done this successfully in cancerous mice, and it dramatically increases their survival rate.”
Bacteria naturally seek out dead tissue for food by using sensors that home in on chemicals such as ribose, given off by dying cells. But Forbes doesn’t want his Salmonella robots going to the dead cancer cells already killed off by chemotherapy. He wants them penetrating to the slow-growing, but live, cancer cells. So his solution is to remove the ribose sensor from Salmonella.
“By knocking out the ribose receptor, we can keep the bacteria away from dead cells, where we don’t need them to go, but get them to travel into slow-growing cells located in hard-to-reach tissue far from blood vessels,” says Forbes.