Can Genetically Engineered Bacteria be Used to Cure Cancer? | Healthcare Topics | NEIH

Updated: Mar 19

What are the Current Treatments for Cancer?

Cancer is a life-threating condition in which a damaged cell replicates very quickly and so much that it forms a growth, called a tumor. For more information on the development of cancer read our article "Understanding how Cancer Affects the Body". Current treatment for cancer may involve surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. These treatments can come with a heavy impact on the patient.

Side effects of Radiation and Chemotherapy can cause hair loss, weight loss, loss of appetite, and increased risk of infection. Other side effects for chemotherapy and radiation include hearing loss, increased risk for strokes and damage to the nervous system. Another downside to these treatment methods is that they are not always effective. One promising new area for cancer treatment is injections of bacteria without any harmful side effects.

How Can bacteria be beneficial?

One common misconception about the single-celled lifeform is that all bacteria are bad and dangerous to human health. While some strains of bacteria do cause illness in people we actually have a symbiotic relationship with some strains of bacteria. Symbiotic relationship meaning that bacteria help us and we help it, both of us benefit. An example of this would be the probiotics that live in our digestive system. These probiotics help us digest many different types of foods and are important to our survival. It is only when the levels of these bacteria get too high do we have adverse experiences with it. Antibiotics and penicillin are actually created from bacteria as well.

Fun Fact: There are more bacterial cells in our body than human cells. Bacterial cells outnumber human cells by a ratio of 10:1.

How can Bacteria Be Used in Cancer Treatment

One interesting thing about bacteria is that each strain thrives in different environments. Factors such as temperature, PH level, and presence of oxygen have a huge impact on the growth of bacteria. Tumors caused by cancer actually have a low oxygen environment (hypoxia) which is great for some strains of bacteria! This area of cancer research is very promising. The idea is that scientists can genetically engineer a strain of bacteria to target cancer cells and tumors without causing harm to the body. As the bacteria treatment is administrated to the patient, the bacteria will naturally navigate to the best environment for growth. Once inside the tumor, the bacteria can grow and also be engineered in a way that they drop out medication or treatment directly to the tumor to destroy it from the inside.

How You Can Be Apart of the Research

Medical research is an excellent field to get into and also looks great on a resume or application especially when applying to Medical School. However, getting into this field can be challenging. Luckily, taking a short 5-6 week Phlebotomy Technician training program helps you be apart of a research team to get research experience under your belt. Clinical research often involves blood work from a pool of human test subjects. The phlebotomy technician would come in a draw a blood sample from the subject to see if they are eligible for the trail or how to see how the trail is going with the patient.

#research #beatingcancer #cancerresearch #neweducare #phlebotomy #neih



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