Tweak to Treat: Reprograming Bacteria for Cancer Treatment

Trends Cancer. 2021 May;7(5):447-464. doi: 10.1016/j.trecan.2020.11.004. Epub 2020 Dec 8.


Recent advancements in cancer biology, microbiology, and bioengineering have spurred the development of engineered live biotherapeutics for targeted cancer therapy. In particular, natural tumor-targeting and probiotic bacteria have been engineered for controlled and sustained delivery of anticancer agents into the tumor microenvironment (TME). Here, we review the latest advancements in the development of engineered bacteria for cancer therapy and additional engineering strategies to potentiate the delivery of therapeutic payloads. We also explore the use of combination therapies comprising both engineered bacteria and conventional anticancer therapies for addressing intratumor heterogeneity. Finally, we discuss prospects for the development and clinical translation of engineered bacteria for cancer prevention and treatment.

Keywords: cancer; engineered bacteria; live biotherapeutics; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use*
  • Synthetic Biology / methods*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cancer Vaccines