Can an infectious agent be used for cancer therapy? Elizabeth Tracey reports


Salmonella, a bacteria that normally makes people ill, is being used as one part of a multipronged approach to treat certain cancers. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says the range of disease-causing microorganisms, known as pathogens, in cancer therapies is long.

Nelson: There's a whole collection of pathogens that are being genetically reengineered for the purpose of cancer care. There are bacteria including salmonella, listeria, Clostridium, there are viruses. What you're seeing is that these bacteria have some interesting properties. Several of them tend to migrate to or attracted to areas of low oxygen tension. That's a common feature of some tumor sites particularly if their tumors are very large. Tumors grow and outpace the infrastructure that would nourish them with blood supply so they tend to be a little bit low in oxygen tension.  :34

Nelson says a fine line between making someone ill and treatment must be walked when using such an approach. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.