Salmonella effective against cancer cells

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Researchers use salmonella in cancer therapy and are seeing initial success

Salmonella could be an effective weapon against cancer in the future. Researchers at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig report first successes with genetically modified strains of salmonella in cancer therapy. The research team around Dr. Siegfried Weiß, head of the “Molecular Immunity” working group at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research, has successfully used salmonella to treat cancer in mice. The genetically modified strains of the bacteria, which are also known to cause severe food infections, settle in the tumors and destroy them, explained Dr. Knows the new approach to cancer therapy.

Modified salmonella destroy tumors According to the experts, the approach to cancer therapy with salmonella is actually not a novelty. "It has been known for 150 years that bacteria can destroy tumor cells," reported Dr. Siegfried Weiss. However, it has never been possible in the past to control the risk of infection when using bacteria against cancer. Due to the genetic modification of Salmonella, however, according to Dr. Knows possible these days. The HZI scientists have already successfully tested their approach to cancer therapy with salmonella several times on mice. According to the experts, the fact that salmonellae - like numerous other bacteria - settle specifically in the tumors is probably due to the fact that the dead tissue inside the tumors offers the bacteria a protected and nutrient-rich environment. According to Dr. Siegfried Weiß is really attracted to the bacteria by tumors. When administered intravenously near the tumors, the bacteria make the blood vessels more permeable and, after a short time, the salmonella with the blood get into the tumor tissue, the researchers explained. According to the HZI experts, the genetically modified strains of the Salmonella typhimurium bacterium also penetrate and destroy the oxygen-poor areas of the tumor tissue.

Further options for the use of salmonella in cancer therapy After combating cancer with the modified salmonella strains has already been successfully tested several times in mice, the HZI researchers are now working on improving the effectiveness of the bacteria while avoiding the risk of blood poisoning. In addition, according to the scientists, further options for using the bacteria in cancer therapy are being examined. For example, the experts are currently testing whether toxins from other bacteria implanted in the cells of Salmonella can be used to treat cancer. It is also being investigated whether messenger substances from the immune system can be mobilized through the use of Salmonella to strengthen the immune system against cancer. According to the experts, the bacteria can also be used to diagnose cancer. The bacteria should shine through genetic modification, thus making the location and size of tumors or metastases visible. However, according to Dr. White still take years before the new methods can be used clinically.

Clinical use of Salmonella only possible after years The HZI researchers have been working on a new cancer therapy based on bacteria for six years and according to Dr. White can take another five years to master the animal testing process. Only then can clinical trials be carried out, the expert emphasized. However, Dr. In any case, the new procedure knows rather as a supplement or replacement of chemotherapy - surgical interventions could not be prevented even on the basis of the new cancer therapy, emphasized the expert. Still, according to Dr. Knows "a certain attraction if these bacteria of all day could be used to cure a terrible disease like cancer", because so far salmonellae have only been known to humans as "a threat to their health". (fp)

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Image: Rolf van Melis /

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Video: Science Talk: Radioactive Bacteria Targets Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer


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