Bacteria caught eating chemo drugs meant for cancerous tumors

Bacteria has been spotted 'eating' chemotherapy drugs intended for treating cancerous tumors, potentially opening the door for more effective cancer treatments in the future. According to a new study, certain types of bacteria may exist in the vicinity of cancer cells, devouring the chemo drugs that would otherwise combat the cancerous tumors that result. This prevents adequate levels of these drugs from reaching the cancerous cells, resulting in a sort of chemo-resistant cancer.

The presence of this chemo-devouring bacteria, specifically a class of bacteria called Gammaproteobacteria, could explain why some otherwise treatable cancers don't respond well to traditional chemotherapy. The study points toward a growing body of evidence that suggests microbes such as this bacteria can have a big effect on the efficacy of cancer treatments.

In this case, the researchers studied the effects bacteria have on the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine, which is used to treat cancerous tumors such as the ones found in breast cancer. During the study, the researchers found that bacteria could metabolize the chemo drug, rendering it into an inactive form, inducing a form of a gemcitabine-resistance in the patient.

Researchers found that mice with cancerous tumors were resistant to treatment with gemcitabine once the bacteria was introduced into their system. Coupling the treatment with antibiotics, though, namely a powerful form of antibiotic called ciprofloxacin, solved the resistance problem. Looking at humans, the researchers found that 86 out of 113 patients with a type of cancer called PDAC were also positive for the Gammaproteobacteria.

This discovery highlights an exciting possibility — that in some people with cancerous tumors that aren't responding well to chemo, the solution may be as simple as a co-treatment with a powerful antibiotic that prevents the bacteria from metabolizing the chemo drug.

SOURCE: Science Mag