Salmonella may be associated with horrific bouts of food poisoning, but scientists have recently discovered that it can help kill brain tumors in rats.
Biomedical engineers at Duke University decided to hone in their cancer research on deadly glioblastoma, which is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer.
According to statistics, most people only survive 15 months after diagnosis and just 10% of patients make it to the five year mark.
To go toe-to-toe with this horrific health foe, they used a strain of salmonella, known as Salmonella typhimurium, which typically causes food poisoning and other adverse effects in humans.
The biomedical engineers edited the strain of salmonella so that it would become a cancer eating machine.
They did this by using a strain of the bacteria that was deficient in purine, an enzyme that is necessary for the bacteria to be kept alive.
Tumors are an especially rich source of purine, so the bacteria fed off of them.
The bacteria was also genetically inserted with azurin and p53 so that when it finished its job, it would kill itself so as not to further disrupt the patient’s body.
And it worked, at least better than any option that is currently available.
The strain was tested on rats with severe cases of the brain cancer, and they found they were able to put several of the rats in total remission by destroying their tumors completely.
20% of the animals involved in the experiment lived for 100 days or longer, which is the equivalent to 10 human years.
Effectively this doubles the amount of time many patients would have if the experiment reacts the same way in humans.
However, 80% of the rats still succumbed to their cancer.
Researchers believe that this is likely because they did not edit the genes effectively enough or the tumor grew faster than the bacteria could eat it.
“It might just be a case of needing to monitor the treatment’s progression and provide more doses at crucial points in the cancer’s development. However, this was our first attempt at designing such a therapy, and there is some nuance to the specific model we used, thus more experiments are needed to know for sure.”
If perfected, this could be a totally new way to treat a variety of cancers without the side effects of chemo.