Genetically modified Salmonella bacteria have been used to successfully shrink prostate cancers in a lab study by Swansea University. Scientists leading the study believe this could be a ‘game-changer’ in the treatment of the disease.
In this promising study, Salmonella bacteria were modified to make them completely harmless to healthy cells but lethal to cancer cells. By harnessing the natural properties of the bacteria, the cancer cells are starved of nutrients causing them to perish. The scientists had also altered the bacteria to carry a therapeutic molecule which stops the cancer growing or spreading by switching off the genes that are needed for cell growth and replication.
"The molecules we deliver with the help of the salmonella trigger, this 'switching off' of the genes: the genes that drive the growth of the tumour.” explains Professor Paul Dyson from Swansea University.
Unlike chemotherapy and radiotherapy, the treatment is non-toxic and targets only the tumour, not healthy tissue. What’s more, the altered salmonella is so effective at attacking and killing cancer cells that patients would only need one dose of the treatment, as opposed to the weeks and months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy currently endured by cancer patients.
The next step is to test this bacteria in a pre-clinical trial, for which Cancer Research UK has already set aside £200,000 to help fund it. Cancer Research UK believe this could be an exciting opportunity which could revolutionise prostate cancer treatment and potentially be applied to other cancers too.
The charity's research engagement manager for Wales, Dr Alexa Bishop said In pre-clinical testing if it's shown to be successful it can be applied to other types of cancer, not just prostate cancer.
"The other thing that's really promising is that this potential treatment is non-toxic, which would be a kinder, more effective treatment for cancer in the future."