Recently scientists have discovered that disease causing bacteria that cause listeriosis could assist in the fight against cancer. Infecting people with the bacteria could increase the body’s ability to fight tumours. By introducing this bacteria into the body, the immune system is provoked and responds by attacking the cancer.
The reason why this specific bacteria was chosen was because of its ability to stow away in antigen-presenting cells. These cells prime the rest of the immune system to attack a given strain of microbe. A US vaccine company Advaxis, modified the bacterium so that it no longer was harmful, and when it stowed away in an APC, it gave it the necessary instructions to commence an attack on the cancer cells.
In preliminary trails, 13 women with advanced cervical cancer were given this treatment. Four of those injected with this bacteria responded well, with them being tumour free more than two years after the treatment. The tumours in 3 other women shrank by 20 percent. 7 of the women in this test died from the cancer.
Adraxis plans to begin trialing this treatment on 180 patients with less advanced cancer. Kohn Stanford of the University College of London however, believes that Adraxis may have to give booster does to sustain the therapeutic effect.
New Scientist Magazine, 29th March 2008
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