Local scientists think salmonella may help fight cancer - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local scientists think salmonella may help fight cancer

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Salmonella is widely known as a bacteria that sickens thousands of Americans each year. But a new study suggests that salmonella can be used for a good purpose, and be a potential cure for cancer.

At AntiCancer in Kearny Mesa, they're using 200 years of history to hopefully end cancer for good.

"On occasion, when a cancer patient got an infection, the cancer regressed and sometimes even went away," Dr. Robert Hoffman of AntiCancer said.

In this case, that infection is salmonella -- that's right, the food-bourne illness that makes millions of people run to the bathroom every year is being studied there to cure cancer. And so far in mice, it seems to be working.

"Cancer cells are very rich in nutrients, and these bacteria are attracted to them and they secrete toxins and do other things that kill the cancer cells," Hoffman said.

AntiCancer mutated the bacteria to get rid of salmonella's side effects, and once that bacteria is inside a tumor it can secrete toxins to attack it.

"I think we're going to be able to develop bacteria that can target anybody's tumor," Hoffman said.

This isn't new. Another company tried it in the 90s, but ran out of funding before successfully fighting cancer in humans.

John Reed is CEO of the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla, which is also aggressively hoping to cure cancer. So does he think AntiCancer is on to something?

"It's too early to tell and it'll simply have to be examined in clinical trials and if it's like everything else, it'll take multiple failures before success is finally achieved," Reed said.

But that will take money. AntiCancer is hoping to raise $1 to $2 million to move forward, with the next step -- curing dogs with cancer -- then hopefully phase one human trials within 5 years.

So even if salmonella does turn out to be a miracle cure for cancer, we are many years away from FDA approval. As one scientist put it, there are a lot of exciting things happening in the field of cancer research, but it's never fast enough.

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