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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note: Bacterial Cancer Treatment

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth's Diane Toomey reports on a new study that used soil bacteria to destroy cancerous tumors.


CURWOOD: Coming up: fast track, fair trade, and free trade--a civics lesson in economics and the environment is just ahead. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

TOOMEY: Advanced forms of cancer can grow so fast, parts of these tumors can't get enough blood and oxygen. This condition can make tumors resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. But researchers are taking advantage of the oxygen-starved environment. Scientists at Johns Hopkins University screened about two dozen bacteria for their ability to both live without oxygen and kill tumor cells. It appears that common soil bacteria, Clostridium novi, did both exceedingly well. So scientists injected this bacteria, as well as conventional chemotherapy drugs, into a small number of mice with tumors developed from human colon cancer. After a single treatment, more than half the tumors were completely destroyed within 24 hours. But the fast acting process actually killed some mice. That's because when large tumors are destroyed quickly, toxins such as uric acid are released and can build up in the body. So researchers say they must learn how to control the rate of destruction. Scientists also say they don't know why colon cancer cells die when they come in contact with Clostridium novi. They'll be researching that, as well as what other cancers the bacteria may be effective against. That's this week's Health Note. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.



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