A team of scientists at the University of Minnesota has found a groundbreaking use for salmonella, but don’t worry – it’s far from food. Instead, the bacterium is being used within the field of cancer therapy.
Led by Daniel Saltzman, M.D., researchers working on the University’s Project Stealth have altered salmonella so it no longer causes food-related illness, but rather, delivers cancer drugs interleukin-2 (IL-2) and other proteins like IL-15 to tumor cells. Once there, they work to stimulate the patient’s immune system to destroy cancer cells.
The key, Saltzman says, was the discovery that salmonella naturally flocks to tumor cells. Knowing this, researchers can use the bacteria to their advantage, attacking tumors in a new way.
“It’s a completely nontoxic way of treating cancer that involves boosting the immune system and changing the microenvironment of tumors, rendering them nonresistant to various therapies,” Saltzman said.
Current cancer treatments such as chemotherapy affect both cancer cells and healthy cells, resulting in negative side effects. But with this new approach, no healthy cells are compromised. In fact, side effects are considered nonexistent.
“It’s truly a major breakthrough in thinking around cancer therapy,” said Saltzman.
To raise awareness about the project, Saltzman took a nonconventional route, seeking funding from philanthropic donors and organizations rather than the traditional government or University grant funding. He hopes a new advertising campaign, provided free of charge by a local advertising agency, will help raise awareness and push Project Stealth to a point where large funding groups and the NIH will take notice.
“Within four weeks the campaign raised almost $30,000,” Saltzman said. “We’re hoping to raise $500,000.”
Project Stealth targets many cancers including: osteosarcoma, neuroblastoma, lung, pancreatic, colon, brain, and breast. Looking forward, Saltzman hopes the efforts will lead to helping as many cancer patients as possible.
“In two years we’d like to have enough research to submit an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the FDA for a new cancer drug.”
To read more or donate to the cause, check out the Project Stealth website.