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Aug 28, 2008
 |  BC Innovations  |  Cover Story

Armed & Dangerous

Researchers at the Burnham Institute for Medical Researchare taking a second shot at exploiting Salmonella's tumor-homing ability to develop cancer therapies. In work reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, they armed an attenuated strain of Salmonella with a proapoptotic cytokine and showed the strain's therapeutic activity in mouse cancer models.1 But given the failure of similar strategies in the past, it remains to be seen whether any companies will pick up the baton and in-license the revamped technology.

It has been known for over a century that certain facultative anaerobic bacteria-bacteria capable of growing with or without oxygen-are able to preferentially home in on tumors when injected intravenously, establish themselves, replicate and inhibit tumor growth.2

Although the use of Salmonella vectors to treat cancer is enticing, the only biotech to have taken them into the clinic, Vion Pharmaceuticals Inc., stopped those programs about five years ago due to minimal efficacy in Phase I trials.

The Burnham researchers, led by John Reed, president and CEO of the institute, used an attenuated strain of S. typhimurium, one of the better-known tumor-targeting bacteria, to deliver the proapoptotic cytokine Fas ligand (TNF superfamily, member 6) (FASL; CD95L) to solid tumors in mice. The goal of the study was to see whether bacteria could deliver toxic payloads to tumors and whether the inherent tumor-inhibiting ability ofSalmonella could be enhanced this way.

The Burnham group had previously used the same attenuated S. typhimurium...

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