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The research group in which I work, at University College Cork, has shown that eating or injecting harmless bacteria found in probiotic yoghurts) results in their travelling around the body and lodging inside tumours, where they multiply to high numbers. Using genetic engineering, we have made these bacteria produce anti-cancer agents, that can be pumped out inside tumours. These bacteria grow mainly in the centre of tumours. A lab in Canada has discovered a type of harmless virus that also travels to and multiplies inside tumours, and kills the cancer as it grows. However, unlike our bacteria, these viruses don’t grow well in the centre of tumours, so even though treatment with virus kills a lot of the tumour, it grows back. We want to examine if our bacteria can help these viruses to grow better in the centre of tumours. We have engineered the bacteria to produce a protein that makes the tumour a safer place for viruses to grow, by blocking an anti-virus agent made by tumour cells. This combined approach to cancer treatment presents an attractive strategy for the safe and effective treatment of cancer. We are currently optimising this therapy in a range of pre-clinical models. We are going to investigate if we could treat cancer using both the bacteria and the viruses, so that the entire tumour will be killed, without regrowing.
A number of harmless bacteria strains have been identified which are capable of localising and growing inside of tumour tissue. These bacteria grow mainly in the centre of tumours. A type of harmless virus has also been identified which is capable of killing cancer cells, but unfortunately the virus is incapable of growing well inside of tumour tissue. This project aims to manipulate the cancer-localising bacteria to produce a specific protein which would make the tumour a more favourable place for the virus to grow in order kill the cancer cells.
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