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CIO: Bacteria Could Be Useful in Fight Against Cancer

Weakened strain of Clostridium novyi-NT bacteria thrives in low oxygen environment

MONDAY, Feb. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Bacteria may offer a new way to treat cancer, a small, preliminary study suggests. The findings were to be presented Saturday at the annual Symposium on Clinical Interventional Oncology, held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1 in Hollywood, Fla.

Researchers injected a weakened strain of Clostridium novyi-NT bacteria spores into tumors in six patients. The bacteria grew in the tumors and killed cancer cells, the investigators reported. Five of the six patients are still alive, while one died from unrelated causes several months after receiving the bacteria injection.

"When tumors reach a certain size, parts of them do not receive oxygen, which makes them resistant to conventional therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy," study author Ravi Murthy, M.D., a professor of interventional radiology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in a symposium news release. "C. novyi-NT thrives under these conditions, hones in on the low-oxygen areas and destroys tumors from the inside while sparing normal tissue," Murthy explained.

C. novyi-NT also triggers an immune response to cancer. "Essentially, C. novyi-NT causes a potent cancer-killing infection in the tumor," study principal investigator Filip Janku, M.D., an associate professor in the department of investigation therapeutics at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in the news release.

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