Strep Bacteria Could Be Used to Treat Colon Cancer

The same bacteria known to cause strep throat could be the answer to fighting colon cancer, says a team of researchers at Western University.

Dr. John McCormick of the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and his colleagues engineered a streptococcal bacterial toxin to attach itself to tumor cells, forcing the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer.

“Our team has been studying these bacterial toxins, called ‘superantigens,’ for their role in bacterial infections,” said McCormick. “We are now utilizing the power of these toxins to re-direct the immune system to go after cancer cells.”

McCormick and his team used mice that had been stripped of their immune systems to create a sort of “humanized mouse,” which could grow human colon cancer cells and support a human immune system. Kelcey Patterson, lead study author and doctoral candidate at Western, showed that these bacterial toxins not only reduce the size of human colon cancer tumors, but also drastically reduce metastasis.

The research is still in its pre-clinical phase, but McCormick hopes that their work will lead to further development of cancer therapeutics to target metastatic tumor cells. The next phase of the project will involve developing new therapeutics and testing combinations on different tumor antigens.

McCormick and his team have since received a new grant from the Cancer Research Society to develop different toxin and antibody combinations to fight other types of cancer (Source: Bioscience Technology).