Salmonella Can be Used to Treat Cancer?

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According to findings by researchers at the University of Minnesota, salmonella may soon be utilized to help fight cancer in organs surrounding the gut – including the liver, spleen and colon.

“Many bacteria and viruses - even harmful ones - can be used to fight disease,” said Dr. Edward Greeno, lead researcher on the clinical study and medical director of the Masonic Cancer Clinic. “We believe it may even be possible to use bacteria to fight cancer.”

In an effort to solidify his research, Green points to a 1860s report regarding an Austrian patient with a large tumor. The patient had been placed in the same room as another patient who was suffering from a bad infection, and soon thereafter, the tumor began to shrink and disappear.

The downside to that comparison, though, is tumor-having patient’s eventual death. With that in mind, researchers somehow need to harness the properties with which salmonella can fight cancer, all the while removing the possible harmfulness.

In order to do this, scientists have begun to modify a batch of salmonella. The hope is to weaken it, and add Interlueken 2 -- otherwise known as IL-2.

“You could think of IL-2 as a guard dog that sniffs around looking for threats inside the body.” Greeno said. “When it finds one, it calls in an attack by the immune system.”

“This probably won’t replace other ways of treating cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation,” Greeno said. “But it’s a promising area of study and we hope it can be a potent tool in our battle against cancer. It also has potential to be a much cheaper and less toxic alternative to chemotherapy and radiation.”

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