Cancer-Fighting Bacteria Engineered by Scientists

Cancer-Fighting Bacteria Engineered by Scientists

A promising finding uncovered by Stanford Medicine researchers may one day result in brand-new cancer therapies. In experiments, scientists modified the genomes of skin based bacteria and microorganisms to combat cancer.

When these modified bacteria were swabbed onto animals with cancer, tumors unexpectedly started to disappear.

Staphylococcus epidermidis, the bacterium in question, was extracted from mice’s fur and modified to create a protein that activates the immune system against certain cancers.

The altered bacteria killed aggressive forms of skin cancer after being lightly put onto the fur, making the experiment appear to be a complete success. Additionally, the outcomes were attained without any obvious irritation.

Associate professor of bioengineering, Michael Fischbach, says that “It seemed almost like magic. These mice had really aggressive tumors growing on their flank, and we gave them a rather gentle treatment where we just took a swab of bacteria and rubbed it on the fur on their heads.”

The yet widely unknown world of microbiomes and microorganisms that live there is explored once again in this study.

The skin is truly home to millions of bacteria and even fungi, and viruses, many of whose functions are unknown, despite the fact that gut biomes receive all of the attention from researchers lately.

In this case, the experts discovered that staph epidermidis cells cause the development of immune cells known as CD8 T cells.

The S. epidermidis was essentially manipulated by the researchers to produce CD8 T cells that are specific to antigens.

The antigens in this instance were linked to malignancies from skin cancer.

When the cells came upon a tumor that matched them, they started to quickly replicate and even eradicate the bulk.

“Watching those tumors vanish — especially at a site far from where we applied the bacteria — was just shocking. It took a while for us to believe it was happening,” Fischbach mentioned.

There are certainly serious drawbacks, as there always are with cutting-edge cancer therapies. First of all, mice are used in these studies.

Despite the fact that humans and mice are physiologically quite similar, many medications that are effective in mice don’t work on people.

Although S. epidermidis is abundant on human skin, Stanford researchers don’t know if it causes an immunological reaction in people.

As a result, they may need to find a new type of bacteria to modify.

Additionally, this procedure is used to treat tumors caused by skin cancer.

It will be interesting to know if the advantages extend to internal malignancies.

In light of this, the Stanford team predicts that human trials will begin within the next several years, albeit further mouse and other animal research is required before moving forward with humans.

The end aim of this therapy, according to scientists, may be to target not just cancer cells but also several infectious disorders.


Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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