Bacteria were able to attack cancer cells

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Bacteria destroyed cancer tumors in the study

To this day, pancreatic cancer can only be successfully treated in rare cases. However, this could change significantly in the future thanks to the latest findings from a research team at the Albert Einstein College in New York. The scientists led by Claudia Gravekamp and Ekaterina Dadachova have succeeded in introducing radioactive isotopes into the organism of mice with pancreatic cancer to destroy cancer cells using bacteria. They published their results in the renowned journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS).

"There has been no significant improvement in the treatment of pancreatic cancer over the past 25 years, which underscores the urgent need for new alternative therapies," the US researchers said. They are using a revolutionary method to specifically target pancreatic cancer cells. Using bacteria, a radioisotope was smuggled through the body of cancerous mice directly to the cancer cells. The success was impressive. Much of the pancreatic cancer cells were destroyed, while the healthy cells remained intact.

Bacteria against cancer cells From previous studies it was already known that bacteria of the genus Listeria only attack tumor cells, whereas healthy cells usually resist the bacteria. Gravekamp and Dadachova wanted to use the effect for the targeted destruction of cancer cells and for this purpose have “coupled the radioisotope 188 rhenium to the bacteria.” This is how radiation in the cancer cells is triggered, which ideally triggers their destruction, the US researchers write. Radiology professor Ekaterina Dadachova explained that 188 rhenium seemed to them to be well suited for the novel procedure, since its effects are known from cancer therapy and the short half-life of 17 hours ensures that the organism or healthy tissue is only exposed to the strain for a relatively short time becomes.

As part of their investigations, the US researchers injected the newly acquired, unique radioactive bacterium into mice with metastatic pancreatic cancer. The mice were injected daily for a week. The mice were then given four more injections until the end of the trial period, which was reached after 21 days, as the mice in the control group started to die. The following examination of the animals showed that the injection of the radioactive bacterium caused a reduction in metastases by 90 percent. The healthy cells were largely spared.

This result was possible because the bacteria were efficiently controlled by the immune system in normal tissues, "but not in the highly immunosuppressed microenvironment of metastases and primary tumors," write the US researchers. They assume that a longer reduction in the metastases would have been possible with a longer trial period. In order to "achieve 100 percent elimination of the metastases, another cancer drug could be added to the bacteria if in doubt". Gravekamp and Dadachova conclude that we may be entering a new era in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Bad prognosis for pancreatic cancer So far, the situation with pancreatic cancer has often been rather hopeless for the person concerned, not least because pancreatic carcinoma, which is usually initially asymptomatic, is usually discovered relatively late. At the time of diagnosis, the tumors can often no longer be surgically removed and metastasis has already started. The chances of success of classic chemotherapy are also extremely limited here. For example, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is generally extremely low. (fp)

Little chance of pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer has been developing for years

Image: Sebastian Karkus /

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