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Yogurt helps cancer medicine go down

A bacteria commonly found in probiotic yogurt has been shown to be a safe and effective way to deliver gene therapies to treat cancer. Research, to be published by a team in UCC today, shows that harmless bacteria (bifidobacteria) have a natural ability to travel through the body and grow inside tumours.

The team from the Cork Cancer Research Centre found that it can now genetically engineer these bacteria so that they will pump out anti-cancer agents specifically inside tumours . "The main goal of cancer treatment is to focus therapy on tumours without harming healthy cells," lead researcher Dr Mark Tangney said.

"When a patient's cancer has spread, then ideally, a treatment should be administered throughout a patient's body (eg intravenous administration) to allow treatment of any tumours present, including secondary tumours at early stages of development."

"However, current chemo- therapy drugs administered in this fashion are toxic to many healthy cell types, often resulting in severe side effects for the patient.

"We are so excited about this research. These new results suggest we can overcome a major barrier to achieving an efficient and safe gene medicine for cancer."

The research, which is funded by the Health Research Board, is published today in the 'Nature journal -- Molecular Therapy'. Noriyuki Kasahara, president of the International Society for Cell and Gene Therapy of Cancer, said: "The work being done at Cork Cancer Research Centre at UCC is certainly at the cutting edge of science: no one has ever shown before that you can take an orally administered safe bacteria and have it hone into a tumour mass before and act there."

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