Study: Salmonella bacteria can kill cancer cells

Mice treated with bacteria were cured of melanoma cancer.

Artificial heart patients 311 (photo credit: Eli Dadon )
Artificial heart patients 311
(photo credit: Eli Dadon )
The dreaded food poisoning bacterium, Salmonella, is on its way from infamous to famous. In a study published in the journal "Scientific Translational Medicine"  last week, a group of Italian researchers reported that Salmonella was effective in killing melanoma cells in mice. This discovery could potentially lead to a future development of similar treatment for humans, treating melanoma and perhaps other types of cancer.
Human immune system cells can recognize certain types of cancer cells and induce their destruction. Cancer cells often develop different alterations in their structural characteristics in order to avoid recognition by the immune system, thereby escaping destruction and enabling tumor growth and metastases.
In this study melanoma cells in mice were infected deliberately with Salmonella bacteria. Consequently, immune system cells were able to control the growth of the tumor cells infected as well as of distant uninfected tumors. The researchers showed that the Salmonella bacteria induced a certain protein that was originally suppressed by the tumor cells. The reactivation of this protein formed a connection between tumor cells and immune system cells, which eventually created an immune response against the tumor cells and control over their growth.  
While further studies in humans are needed to evaluate the potential of this discovery, theresults are promising and may be the beginning of a development of vaccines against melanoma, and perhaps against other types of cancer as well. 
Source:  Sci Transl Med 11 August 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 44, p. 44ra57
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