Scientists have been increasingly successful in delivering drugs to precisely the part of the body that needs them. Bacteria are proving to be excellent drugs couriers.
This means that bacteria are able to make an important contribution towards more effective cancer treatments with far fewer side effects. They do this by delivering the cancer drugs directly to where they are needed, which means that the dosage can be reduced and the rest of the body can be spared.
Microscopic courier work
Researchers at the renowned California Institute of Technology use genetically engineered bacteria for this microscopic courier work. The engineering ensures that the bacteria release their load at a certain temperature. The physician creates the required temperature increase using an ultrasound bundle directed at the right spot. In effect the physician communicates with the bacteria so that they can do their job.
Drop in temperature
The bacteria self-destruct once their work is done. When they leave the body through defecation, the subsequent drop in temperature ensures that they die. This avoids any possible contamination. The bacteria also die at excessive temperatures, for example as a result of a fever, which is a sign that the therapy is not working properly.
Canadian scientists are using bacteria in a slightly different way, as drugs couriers in the bloodstream. They use bacteria that respond to low oxygen levels that are able to independently trace the low-oxygen area in a tumor and deliver the cancer drug to this. The low-oxygen area comes about because the cancer cells are very active there and use a lot of oxygen. Both methods have been successfully tested on animals. Expectations are that the methods will be used on humans in a couple of years from now.