Therapeutic potential of mycobacterial cell wall-DNA complexes

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2001 Dec;10(12):2157-65. doi: 10.1517/13543784.10.12.2157.


Cell wall skeletons isolated from many bacteria have been shown to possess anticancer activity. The anticancer activities of such preparations have been attributed to the activation of immune effector cells and not to a direct effect on cancer cell division. A cell wall extract from Mycobacterium phlei, wherein mycobacterial DNA in the form of short oligonulceotides is preserved to the cell wall, has anticancer activity against a wide range of cancer cells. Mycobacterial cell wall-DNA complexes (MCC) exert their anticancer activity by a dual mechanism of action: an indirect effect via the induction of anticancer cytokines and a direct effect on cancer cell division mediated by the induction of apoptosis. In this review, the immunomodulatory and the pro-apoptotic mechanisms of action of MCC will be explored. The identification of the active component in MCC will be discussed, as well as the composition differences with cell wall skeletons and live mycobacteria. Finally, the use of MCC against bladder and prostate cancers will be discussed and compared to standard therapies, particularly therapy using mycobacteria and mycobacteria-derived products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biological Products / chemistry*
  • Cell Wall / chemistry*
  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / pharmacology
  • DNA, Bacterial / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium / chemistry*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / drug therapy


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Biological Products
  • DNA, Bacterial