The word anthrax typically conjures up terrifying thoughts of a potentially deadly infection or a bioterrorist attack. Luckily, there is a vaccine to prevent anthrax. Although few commercial vendors stock this vaccine, it is available at Passport Health clinic locations nationwide. Interestingly, in the near future, a benefit may come from this deadly disease, as current research suggests that anthrax might be a means of killing cancer.
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered that bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that can lead to a deadly anthrax infection, can be re-engineered as a delivery system for administering cancer-fighting drugs. In a paper released in ChemBioChem, the MIT researchers showed how a disarmed version of anthrax could deliver antibody drugs to the cells most in need in order to aid their fight against cancer.
“Anthrax toxin is a professional at delivering large enzymes into cells,” said Bradley Pentelute, a researcher on the project. “We wondered if we could render anthrax toxin nontoxic, and use it as a platform to deliver antibody drugs into cells.”
By removing the harmful sides of the anthrax bacteria, Pentelute and his team were able to create a delivery system that is far more efficient than what has been previously used in biotechnology.
While these findings are quite promising, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on the project. The team is now trying to treat tumors in mice and is working on ways to deliver the antibody-carrying bacteria to specific types of cells.
“This work represents a prominent advance in the drug-delivery field,” said Jennifer Cochran, an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford University. “Given the efficient protein delivery Pentelute and colleagues achieved with this technology compared to [others]…studies to translate these findings into in vivo disease models will be highly anticipated.”
The Anthrax vaccine has been licensed in the US since 1970, but this new finding is a promising step forward for cancer research and research related to the deadly bacteria.