Bugs into Drugs

Posted on: 13 Apr 2017

Bugs into Drugs


A central part of our philosophy at Breakthrough is finding ways to use the patient’s own immune system to attack cancerous cells. Under Dr. Mark Tangney’s “Bugs Into Drugs” project, one of our young researchers, Dr Mike Stanton, is trying to do that by exploiting the fondness bacteria have for living inside tumours.

“Our immune system is extremely powerful and is quite capable of killing cancer cells,” says Mike. “But cancer cells have a way of tricking the immune system into thinking they’re normal cells.” 


Mike’s research focusses on ways of unmasking cancerous cells so the immune system recognises them for what they are, and goes on the attack. Mike has already developed a technology that can make bacteria glow with blue luminescence under special imaging cameras, thereby enabling doctors to locate tumours, as large blue glowing masses. And having found a way to locate them, Mike is now developing ways of attacking them.


One approach is to inject bacteria that can colonise and grow inside a tumour,” he continues. “And then administer drugs that will only react in the presence of those colonising bacteria. That reaction releases toxic chemicals inside the tumour, killing it from within, and unmasking it to the patient’s immune system.”


Breakthrough's work in this area has attracted widespread attention and has now joined the pan-European Vaccine & Imaging Partnership. This collaboration will bring more funding, and extended opportunities to collaborate with other world leading research teams in this area.


To read more about Mike's work on Microbes & Cancer click here

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