Salmonella could be used in the war against cancer after it was found to trigger the body's own defence system against the disease.
Published: 6:00PM BST 11 Aug 2010
Scientists have discovered that treating tumours with the Salmonella bacteria can induce an immune response that effectively kills cancer cells – and also vaccinates against further growth.
Cancer cells are especially dangerous because they evade the body's immune system that usually tracks down and kills any abnormalities.
Treating these cancer cells with salmonella effectively makes them "visible" to the body's immune cells and therefore open to attack.
Researchers at the University of Milan have made the system work in mice in the laboratory and are now looking to carry out trials in humans next year.
Dr Maria Rescigno said that the salmonella, which was in too low a dose to cause harm in itself, acted as a "red flag" highlighting dangerous cancer cells.
She said the immune cells suddenly recognised and killed tumour cells in the mice.
They also protected mice from cancer spreading to other parts of the body–a “vaccination” style preventive strategy.
"We are very excited about the results," said Dr Rescigno who hopes that trials will begin in May.
The work was published in the journal of Science Translational Medicine.