Orally administered bifidobacteria as vehicles for delivery of agents to systemic tumors

Mol Ther. 2010 Jul;18(7):1397-407. doi: 10.1038/mt.2010.59. Epub 2010 Apr 13.


Certain bacteria have emerged as biological gene vectors with natural tumor specificity, capable of specifically delivering genes or gene products to the tumor environment when intravenously (i.v.) administered to rodent models. We show for the first time that oral administration of bacteria to mice resulted in their translocation from the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) with subsequent homing to and replication specifically in tumors. The commensal, nonpathogenic Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 harboring a plasmid expressing lux fed to mice bearing subcutaneous (s.c.) tumors were readily detected specifically in tumors, by live whole-body imaging, at levels similar to i.v. administration. Reporter gene expression was visible for >2 weeks in tumors. Mice remained healthy throughout experiments. Cytokine analyses indicated a significant upregulation of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) in the GIT of bifidobacteria-fed mice, which is associated with increases in epithelial permeability. However, B. breve feeding did not increase systemic levels of other commensal bacteria. The presence of tumor was not necessary for translocation to systemic organs to occur. These findings indicate potential for safe and efficient gene-based treatment and/or detection of tumors via ingestion of nonpathogenic bacteria expressing therapeutic or reporter genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Bifidobacterium / genetics*
  • Bifidobacterium / immunology
  • Bifidobacterium / isolation & purification
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Enzyme Assays
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Genetic Vectors / administration & dosage*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • Genetic Vectors / immunology
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology
  • Immunity, Humoral / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Melanoma, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-gamma