Inspired by hundred-year-old accounts of how bacterial infections coincided with cancer remissions, scientists have shown that injections of a weakened bacterium — Clostridium novyi — can shrink tumors in rats and pet dogs.
The scientists, based at Johns Hopkins and BioMed Valley Discoveries, even reported success in treating a human patient.
Their approach updates early work that had been carried out in the 1890s by cancer researcher William Coley, who noticed that some patients who developed postsurgical infections went into remission or were even cured of their cancer. Coley developed treatments based on mixtures of killed bacteria, but failed to win the confidence of his peers, who questioned whether “Coley’s toxins” were effective or even safe. While other researchers revived Coley’s general approach over the decades, citing the potential cancer-fighting benefits of instigating a heightened immune response, the results were mixed at best.
But now, scientists have published results indicating that injected bacteria can eradicate neoplastic tissues. These scientists assert that tumor eradication proceeds with such precision that further clinical trials of this agent in selected patients are warranted.
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