A team of scientists from the columbia university has developed a new cancer treatment based on the use of genetically modified bacteria. It should be noted that they are harmless bacteria for humans. That is, if they are administered to us, they will not cause us any infection. Instead, they are prepared to enter tumors and, from there, sound the alarm so that the immune system face off against them.
In fact, that should be natural. The immune system does not only attack external agents that enter the body. It also goes against those own cells that begin to behave in an unusual way. Like the tumors, clear. The problem is that cancer cells have the ability to evade the immune system in multiple ways. For this reason, many cancer treatments focus precisely on enhancing this lost response.
In this case, described in a study in the journal Science Advancesare used genetically modified bacteria with two objectives. On the one hand, that they address specifically to tumor cells and not to other parts of the body. And on the other hand, send signals to the immune system so that he becomes aware of the presence of the tumor, despite his tricks to evade it. So far it has only been tested in mice, but the results have been promising enough to warrant further investigation.
A bacteria-based cancer treatment
The bacteria genetically modified by these scientists can be administered in two different ways. Either directly in the tumor, or in the bloodstream. In this case, they were able to target the tumor without affecting other parts of the body.
It was one of the modifications that had been made to them. The other consisted of the lchemokine releasewhich are molecules that serve as immune system alarm bell. Specifically, two were used. The ones that attract “killer” T cells and those that attract dendritic cells.
The latter are also known as antigen presenting cells, because its function is precisely that. They make a first attack on the foreign agent and then take a fragment, known as an antigen, and expose it for other immune cells to detect and come to its aid. Therefore, what this cancer treatment does is force the response of the immune system. The bacteria burrow into the tumor, deal a first blow and leave it marked for an attack that will also be powered by the “killer” part of the bacteria.
Next step: clinical trials
So far, this cancer treatment has been shown to be very promising in mice. However, the research authors plan to further optimize the process. Once they achieve this, the next step would be to consider the possibility of conducting clinical trials in humans. It is the only way to check if it really is effective. That it works in mice is a sign of optimism, but caution should be maintained until clinical trials are done. This is what we always say with any cancer treatment; but unfortunately it is so. Little by little, with more and more progress.