DEC 30, 2022 11:05 AM PST

New bacterial therapy approach to treat lung cancer

WRITTEN BY: Greta Anne

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the USA - the five-year relative survival rate is as low as 22%. The need for new treatment modalities is urgent, and scientists at Columbia are addressing that need.

Columbia Engineering has released a study showing the use of synthetic biology as a cornerstone of anti-lung cancer therapies in their new article released in Scientific Reports. The science they have been focusing on effectively reprograms and engineers bacteria to deliver therapy for solid tumors in human bladder, liver, colon, breast, and brain cancer. There were difficulties with engineering parameters when it came to lung cancer, however this study was able to overcome that difficulty successfully. 

Strains they have successfully engineered to fight cancer are Mycobacterium bovis, Bifidobacterium spp., Salmonella typhimurium, Listeria monocytogenes, and Clostridium novyi. This specific study used Salmonella typhimurium to deliver θ toxin. They showed that lysate produced by S. typhimurium expressing θ toxin (Stθ) had high anti-cancer activity in a dose dependent manner.

There are a plethora of benefits to this bacterial approach, one being that it is a targeted therapy for a localized area. The bacteria are engineered to go directly to the lung and kill cancer cells. The alternative to this is standard-of-care chemotherapy, which is notorious for having a robust side effect profile, making it hard for patients to tolerate and potentially lowering their quality of life.

A drug candidate with profound anti-cancer activity as well as a more mild side effect profile would be ideal for treating cancer, and this therapy is a promising step in that direction. This pipeline will be exciting to keep an eye out for since this is the future of treatment for solid tumors.



Deb, D., Wu, Y., Coker, C. et al. Design of combination therapy for engineered bacterial therapeutics in non-small cell lung cancer. Sci Rep 12, 21551 (2022).

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Greta is currently a writer at Labroots and a 3rd year Doctor of Pharmacy student, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Innovation is her passion, especially when it comes to pharma, entrepreneurship, science, and art. She is hoping to pursue a career in pharma while also fostering her creative initiatives.
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