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Curr Opin Drug Discov Devel. 2002 Mar;5(2):194-9.

Live bacteria as anticancer agents and tumor-selective protein delivery vectors.

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  • 1Vion Pharmaceuticals Inc, Four Science Park, New Haven, CT 06511, USA.


The development of novel cancer therapies that are selective for cancer cells with limited toxicity to normal tissues is a challenge for oncology researchers. Microorganisms, such as viruses with selectivity for tumor cells or tumor micro-environments, have been investigated as potential arsenals for decades. Genetically-modified, non-pathogenic bacteria have begun to emerge as potential antitumor agents, either to provide direct tumoricidal effects or to deliver tumoricidal molecules. Attenuated Salmonella, Clostridium and Bifidobacterium are capable of multiplying selectively in tumors and inhibiting their growth, representing a new approach for cancer treatment. Because of their selectivity for tumor tissues, these bacteria would also be ideal vectors for delivering therapeutic proteins to tumors. VNP20009, an attenuated strain of Salmonella typhimurium, and its derivative, TAPET-CD, which expresses an Escherichia coli cytosine deaminase (CD), are particularly promising, and are currently undergoing phase I clinical trials in cancer patients.

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