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Radioactive bacteria used to target metastatic pancreatic cancer

By Tim Sandle     Apr 29, 2013 in Health
New York - Researchers have developed a therapy for pancreatic cancer that uses Listeria bacteria to selectively infect tumor cells and deliver radioisotopes into them.
Scientists have found that the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes can infect cancer cells, but not normal cells. Ironically this bacterium is associated with disease in people for Listeria monocytogenes is the bacterium that causes the infection listeriosis (a disease characterized by fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms). This observation sparked an idea about delivering cancer drugs to patients.
From this, scientists showed that Listeria could be harnessed to carry an anti-cancer drug to tumor cells in laboratory cultures. This was tested further through animal studies. For the study, the researchers coupled a radioactive isotope called rhenium to the weakened Listeria bacteria and these were transferred into mice through intra-abdominal injections.
The outcome of the research was that the experimental treatment decreased the number of metastases (cancers that have spread to other parts of the body) in mice suffering from highly aggressive pancreatic cancer, without harming healthy tissue.
The treatment may have the potential for clearing a high percentage of metastases in people. However further animal trials will be required before any tests on people are undertaken.
Pancreatic cancer is a serious illness, with a five-year survival rate of only 4 percent. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes (proteins) and a hormone known as insulin.
The research was undertaken at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
More about Bacteria, Cancer, Radioactive, Pancreatic cancer, metastatic
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