Saving lives with salmonella

Salmonella hospitalizes 20,000 and kills almost 400 people every year. Now, doctors are actually turning to salmonella to fight cancer.

Fred Oakden has battled colon cancer for seven years. He joined a unique study conducted by Doctor Edward Greeno from the University of Minnesota, who is testing salmonella to fight cancer.

Dr. Greeno says, "We're trying to induce an immune response with the salmonella."

Doctors tried this test 150 years ago but it often killed patients. Today, researchers can alter salmonella to make it safe.

“I’m certainly quite hopeful that this going to turn into something that will come into regular clinical use as a valuable agent” says Dr. Greeno.

Salmonella naturally travels to the GI tract so colon and liver cancers are good targets.

Dr. Greeno explains, "The bacteria, interestingly, actually doesn't just grow inside your body. It actually gets inside the individual cells so that it's right there inside of the tumor cells."

Salmonella is not the only bacteria under study. Researchers elsewhere are testing listeria to fight liver cancer. Scientists at the University of Florida are studying bacteria in coral reef to fight cancer and bone disease.

"We really have the tools now to start manipulating bacteria and make them do the things that we want them to do” says Dr. Greeno.

Oakden was in the first phase of the salmonella study. Dr. Greeno says the dose was likely too small to impact his cancer. However, on his last scan, half of his tumors showed no growth.

Today, Oakden spends his time shooting and editing footage of his family. He wants to focus not on his cancer, but what he will leave behind.

Dr. Greeno's salmonella trial is now in a phase where patients are getting higher and more potent doses of the bacteria. The treatment is easy. Patients simply drink a solution that contains salmonella and there are minimal side effects.


BACKGROUND: Salmonellosis is a type of food poisoning caused by salmonella. Approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported each year in the U.S. The University of Minnesota is now conducting a new study and is recruiting male and females, ages 18 and older, to test if salmonella can be used for the treatment cancers surrounding the gut. Their goal is to "weaponize" the salmonella, which allows the bacteria to attack cancer cells in its natural environment.
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CAUSES OF SALMONELLOSIS: Causes of salmonellosis can vary. Food may be contaminated during the handling process or during food process. It can be causes by food handlers not washing their hands after using the restroom, there for caring the bacteria on their hands. Another cause is by petting certain animals, especially rodents and reptiles. It is advised to wash one's hands after petting these animals in order to prevent the accidental consumption of salmonella.

SYMPTOMS: The main symptoms that occur with salmonellosis are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping.
APPLICATION: Salmonella thrives by finding and staying in the gut and its surrounding areas, such as the liver, spleen and colon. Therefore, scientists want to test the ability to deliver Interlueken 2, or IL-2, with a genetically modified batch of salmonella in order to attack and treat cancerous tumors. Interlueken 2 would trigger an immune attack on the tumors. Tests have been conducted on animals to test the effectiveness of using salmonella as a way to deliver treatment to the cancerous areas. Results have been successful. Researchers suggest that the therapy has potential to be cheaper and less toxic than chemotherapy and radiation.
The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health, The Masonic Cancer Center and Botanic Oil Innovations.

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