The use of gene therapy is one of the most recent molecular strategies for the treatment of cancer. It is essential, however, to have an efficient transfer system by which the desired gene can be delivered to the correct environment. The experiments described in this report investigate apathogenic Clostridium as a possible vector to transfer a specific gene product into the extracellular microenvironment of the tumour which is hypoxic/necrotic in parts, using WAG/Rij rats with transplantable rhabdomyosarcomas as a model. Our data show that Clostridium, after systemic administration of at least 107spores, specifically colonises the hypoxic/necrotic areas of our tumour model, the most efficient species being C. acetobutylicum (NI-4082) and C. oncolyticum. Although spores were also detected in normal tissues for up to 4 weeks, they did not germinate in these tissues. We conclude that it seems likely that these bacteria can be used as a selective transfer system into the extracellular environment of tumours which have hypoxic regions. This strategy would be more tumour-specific than various other strategies that are currently being investigated in anti-cancer gene therapy.
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