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Streptococcal Bacteria Has The Potential To Fight Colon Cancer, Study Finds

Update Date: May 21, 2014 04:50 AM EDT

Streptococcal bacteria - primarily responsible for causing strep throat - can also be used to fight colon cancer, according to a new study. 

Researchers engineered a streptococcal bacterial toxin that attaches itself to tumor cells and forced the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer. 

The study showed that the engineered bacterial toxin could significantly reduce the size of human colon cancer tumors in mice, with a drastic reduction in the instances of metastasis. 

"Our team has been studying these bacterial toxins called 'superantigens' for their role in bacterial infections. But we are now utilizing the power of these toxins to re-direct the immune system to go after cancer cells," said  John McCormick, PhD, an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute, who directed the work in the press release. 

The study was well founded in 'humanized mouse' - mouse that would not only grow human colon cancer cells, but would also support a human immune system to test the anti-cancer immunotherapy. 

Researchers said the research provides an important pre-clinical evidence that this may work in humans as well.

"This work represents a 'next-generation immunotoxin' that we hope will eventually lead to a new class of cancer therapeutic," added McCormick.

Researchers of the study have now received a new grant from the Cancer Research Society to develop different toxin and antibody combination to fight other types of cancer. 

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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