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Bacteria offers hope in fight against cancer

By John von Radowitz

Published 23/04/2013

Radioactive bacteria have been developed as a potent new treatment for one of the most deadly cancers.

In laboratory tests on mice, the modified microbes virtually halted the spread of pancreatic cancer without harming healthy tissue. The bacteria, a weakened form of the Listeria bug that causes food poisoning, act like missiles tipped with atomic warheads. When they infect cancer cells, they destroy them with blasts of radiation. But the emissions are short-lived, so damage is largely confined to the target area.

Scientists found the bacteria dramatically reduced the cancer's spread, or metastasis. "We're encouraged that we've been able to achieve a 90pc reduction in metastases in our first round of experiments," said study co-author Dr Claudia Gravekamp, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. " Our approach has the potential to start a new era in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer."

The new research, reported in the journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences', builds on previous work suggesting that Listeria might have cancer-fighting potential.

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