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Bacteria hope for cancer patients

25 April 2013 09:09

Scientists have made a breakthrough in pancreatic cancer treatment

Scientists have made a breakthrough in pancreatic cancer treatment

Scientists have developed radioactive microbes that work like missiles tipped with atomic warheads to treat one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Tests in mice show how the altered bacteria, a weak variety of Listeria that causes food poisoning, almost eradicates pancreatic cancer without causing any harm to healthy tissue.

The bug destroys cancerous cells by blasting them with short, highly targeted radioactive emissions. The tests in mice that had a particularly aggressive form of the cancer saw the spread of the disease decrease dramatically.

Study author Dr Claudia Gravekamp said seeing a 90% reduction in spread of the disease in the opening experiments using the technique was "encouraging".

Dr Gravekamp, from New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said the approach needs more work but it could begin a whole new era in the way pancreatic cancer is treated.

Some 8,400 people are diagnosed with the form of cancer in the UK every year and they are advised to arrange travel insurance for cancer patients to be fully covered when heading abroad.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.