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Research 2024/01/25
Bacteria synergizes with chemotherapy for tumor eradication

The hypoxic and immunosuppressive microenvironment in tumors promotes the growth of cancer cells and inhibits the activation of immune cells, posing a challenging obstacle in cancer treatment. The latest research from Dr. Mou Yun, Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, and his research team, reveals that using bacteria as a therapeutic approach can modulate the tumor microenvironment against cancer cells. When combined with chemotherapy drugs or dietary interventions, the effectiveness of bacterial inhibition of cancer can be strengthened. The study also shows that combining bacteria with a commonly used chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin can enhance the expansion of anti-cancer cytotoxic T cells, leading to tumor elimination. This research contributes to the optimization of cancer treatment and has been published in the flagship journal "EMBO Molecular Medicine" on January 20, 2024.

Tumors can be viewed as an imbalanced ecosystem, where cancer cells thrive, continuously proliferating and expanding. Bacterial anti-cancer therapy can be perceived as introducing a new species into this ecosystem, disrupting and readjusting the ecological balance within the tumor microenvironment. The study found that combining bacterial treatment with other therapeutic approaches significantly increases the selective pressure on cancer cells within the tumor microenvironment, thereby promoting the elimination of cancer cells.

Dr. Lin Shi-Kai, the lead researcher in this study, further discovered a synergistic anti-cancer mechanism when combining bacterial treatment with the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin. Besides the immune-activating effects of bacteria themselves, which can reduce the immunosuppressive side effects of chemotherapy drugs, the anti-cancer cytotoxic T cells induced by oxaliplatin can synergize with bacterial bodies in the tumor microenvironment, enhancing the anti-cancer effect. In the treatment of colorectal cancer tumors, the combination therapy of bacteria and oxaliplatin completely eliminates tumors and inhibits their recurrence.

This research opens up new possibilities in cancer treatment, and Dr. Mou's laboratory has been dedicated to creating advanced anticancer bacterial vectors through through genetic engineering. In 2022, the laboratory published in the journal "Molecular Therapy" a bacterial carrier capable of releasing tumor necrosis factors to enhance the effectiveness of bacterial treatment against malignant melanoma. The lab is also actively developing formulations using probiotics as carriers to improve the safety and clinical applicability of bacterial therapy.

This research was published in the EMBO Molecular Medicine journal on January 20, 2024, under the title "Bacteria colonization in tumor microenvironment creates a favorable niche for immunogenic chemotherapy." The main authors include Dr. Lin Shi-Kai and Research Assistant Lin Wen-Ching. Collaborative investigators include Dr. Che-Ming Jack Hu from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) at Academia Sinica and Dr. Chung-Yuan Mou from the Department of Chemistry, National Taiwan University. Dr. Mou Yun was a former Associate Research Fellow at IBMS. Dr. Mou unfortunately passed away on 28th August 2023. Future correspondence can be addressed to Dr. Hu.

※ Article link (EMBO Molecular Medicine)