Molecular-targeting drugs with fewer severe adverse effects are attracting great attention as the next wave of cancer treatment. There exist, however, populations of cancer cells resistant to these drugs that stem from the instability of tumor cells and/or the existence of cancer stem cells, and thus specific toxicity is required to destroy them. If such selectivity is not available, these targets may be sought out not by the cancer cell types themselves, but rather in their adjacent cancer microenvironments by means of hypoxia, low pH, and so on. The anaerobic conditions present in malignant tumor tissues have previously been regarded as a source of resistance in cancer cells against conventional therapy. However, there now appears to be a way to make use of these limiting factors as a selective target. In this review, we will refer to several trials, including our own, to direct attention to the utilizable anaerobic conditions present in malignant tumor tissues and the use of bacteria as carriers to target them. Specifically, we have been developing a method to attack solid cancers using the non-pathogenic obligate anaerobic bacterium Bifidobacterium longum as a vehicle to selectively recognize and target the anaerobic conditions in solid cancer tissues. We will also discuss the existence of low oxygen pressure in tumor masses in spite of generally enhanced angiogenesis, overview current cancer therapies, especially the history and present situation of bacterial utility to treat solid tumors, and discuss the rationality and future possibilities of this novel mode of cancer treatment.
© 2010 Japanese Cancer Association.