Bacteria in cancer therapy: a novel experimental strategy

J Biomed Sci. 2010 Mar 23;17(1):21. doi: 10.1186/1423-0127-17-21.


Resistance to conventional anticancer therapies in patients with advanced solid tumors has prompted the need of alternative cancer therapies. Moreover, the success of novel cancer therapies depends on their selectivity for cancer cells with limited toxicity to normal tissues. Several decades after Coley's work a variety of natural and genetically modified non-pathogenic bacterial species are being explored as potential antitumor agents, either to provide direct tumoricidal effects or to deliver tumoricidal molecules. Live, attenuated or genetically modified non-pathogenic bacterial species are capable of multiplying selectively in tumors and inhibiting their growth. Due to their selectivity for tumor tissues, these bacteria and their spores also serve as ideal vectors for delivering therapeutic proteins to tumors. Bacterial toxins too have emerged as promising cancer treatment strategy. The most potential and promising strategy is bacteria based gene-directed enzyme prodrug therapy. Although it has shown successful results in vivo yet further investigation about the targeting mechanisms of the bacteria are required to make it a complete therapeutic approach in cancer treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Bacterial Toxins / administration & dosage
  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Prodrugs / administration & dosage


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Prodrugs