Bacteria as colon cancer treatment

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore were able to utilize Clostridium sporogenes, which is commonly found in soil, in its dead form, as well as its secretions, to successfully destroy colon cancer cells.

Reduced blood flow and a lack of oxygen and nutrient flow in tumor environments limits traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy because such therapies rely on oxygen molecules to damage the cancer cells and blood flow to transport therapeutic drugs to the tumor.

Bacterial cancer therapy has the potential to overcome this problem; however, it has a higher risk of infection and increased toxicity. The bacteria were already killed by heat in the NTU study to eliminate the risk of the bacteria multiplying beyond the desired dose used to kill the colorectal cancer cells.

The team conducted experiments in 3-D cell culture (artificially-created environments resembling the inside of a human body), unlike many experiments that are done within a petri-dish.

In the 72-hour experiment, the inactive bacteria were able to reduce the growth of colon tumor cells by 74%. The team also tested the secretions harvested from live bacteria culture, which reduced growth of colon tumor cells by as much as 83%.

The research team plans to study the specific mechanisms of the bacteria that aid in eradicating tumor cells. Eventually, they may be developed into effective cancer treatments.

This finding potentially opens novel treatment for the third most common cancer in the world. Although research is in the early stages, this discovery provides hope of a new treatment option for millions of people affected by colon cancer each year.


Madhura Satish Bhave, Ammar Mansoor Hassanbhai, Padmaja Anand, Kathy Qian Luo, Swee Hin Teoh. Effect of Heat-Inactivated Clostridium sporogenes and Its Conditioned Media on 3-Dimensional Colorectal Cancer Cell Models. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 15681 DOI: 10.1038/srep15681

Nanyang Technological University. Dead bacteria used to kill colorectal cancerScienceDaily.

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