The most lethal cancer in both the United States and the rest of the globe is lung cancer. Patients have few options because many of the currently available medicines are useless. Bacterial therapy has been a promising new approach to treating cancer, however even though this treatment method has swiftly advanced from laboratory studies to clinical trials in the last five years, the most efficient treatment for some types of malignancies may be in combination with other medications.
Columbia Engineering researchers have created a preclinical evaluation pipeline to characterize bacterial therapeutics in lung cancer models. Their most recent research, Scientific Reports released on December 13, 2022, mixes bacterial therapeutics with other therapy modalities to increase treatment efficacy while minimizing side effects.
“We envision a fast and selective expansion of our pipeline to improve treatment efficacy and safety for solid tumors,” said first author Dhruba Deb, an associate research scientist who studies the effect of bacterial toxins on lung cancer in Professor Tal Danino’s lab in Biomedical Engineering, “As someone who has lost loved ones to cancer, I would like to see this strategy move from the bench to bedside in the future.”
The scientists employed RNA sequencing to identify the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which cancer cells reacted to bacteria. They developed a theory regarding the cancer cells’ molecular pathways contributing to their resistance to bacterium therapy. The researchers used current cancer treatments to inhibit these pathways to verify their theory, and they then demonstrated that adding bacterial toxins to the medications increased their ability to kill lung cancer cells. In animal models of lung cancer, they verified the efficacy of combining bacteria therapy with an AKT inhibitor as an example.
“This new study describes an exciting drug development pipeline that has been previously unexplored in lung cancer — the use of toxins derived from bacteria,” said Upal Basu Roy, executive director of research, LUNGevity Foundation, USA. “The preclinical data presented in the manuscript provides a strong rationale for continued research in this area, thereby opening up the possibility of new treatment options for patients diagnosed with this lethal disease.”
Deb plans to expand his strategy to more extensive studies in preclinical models of difficult-to-treat lung cancers and collaborate with clinicians to make a push for clinical translation.