A team of scientists from Duke University developed a vaccine for the most aggressive form of brain cancer using specific Salmonella typhimurium strains that instructs the tumors’ cells to commit suicide. On average, patients who are diagnosed with glioblastoma don’t make it past the next 15 months of their life, with only 10 percent of brain cancer patients surviving five years after diagnosis.
So far, the experiments scientists conducted on mice showed that the subjects increased their survival rate by as much as 20 percent over 100 years. In human years, this is the equivalent of 10 years, with the tumors going into complete remission.
“Since glioblastoma is so aggressive and difficult to treat, any change in the median survival rate is a big deal”, said Ph.D. Student at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, Jonathan Lyon, during a press release.
He added that with the trial’s results, brain cancer patients’ prospects are definitely encouraging thanks to the 20 percent added cure rate. The researchers explained the mechanism of the new serum.
Purine is essential to the glioblastoma’s tumors survival. By genetically re-engineering the salmonella strain and depleting it of purine, the bacteria is forced to seek purine in other sources, namely in the tumor cells. Ultimately, bacteria sticks to purine-packed tumor cells and inhibits their growth. Furthermore, the team of scientists also made other changes to bacteria, so it would produce two compounds, namely p53 and azurin, which instructs glioblastoma cells to commit suicide.
Glioblastoma proves extremely difficult to treat efficiently because of two main reasons. The first reason is that the drugs can barely, and oftentimes they cannot break through the barrier that protects brain material from its blood vessels. Secondly, brain tumors disperse with no clear edge. If a surgical removal is attempted and traces of the tumor are left behind, the disease will just pick up where it left off, the remnants giving birth to new tumors.
Co-author of the study and Vinik Dean of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, Ravi Bellamkonda revealed that the new serum not only completely eradicated glioblastoma tumors in mice, but also naturally cleared out of the system after the agents killed the tumors’ cells, with no immunological response.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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