Pathogens , Our Unwilling Allies?
By Allison Van Pelt

Some bacteria, such as salmonella and clostridium appear to have potential to aid us in the constant battle with cancer. Others, such as heliobacter pylori, may prove to finally be an identifiable cause of some cancers.

Bacteria and cancer have a complex, fickle relationship. Some bacteria hinder some cancers, while other bacteria contribute to the growth to the same or different cancers. Understanding these relationships might give us a key to solving the mysteries that surround cancer, perhaps even giving us the cure we’ve spent so long searching for.

Clostridium family:
Researchers know that clostridium bacteria are anaerobic. They also know that the carcinogenic masses (tumors) are very low in oxygen (Science Daily, 2007). Using these two observations, they have observed clostridium bacterial spores reproducing in tumors, but dying in other locations on the body. The huge advantage to this discovery is the possibility that the clostridium could be engineered to carry cancer-fighting genes. Research in this technique is currently being done on lab animals, and scientists are seeing positive results (Science Daily, 2007). The biggest hurdle is successfully destroying the cancer without the bacteria causing a deadly infection. Clostridium bacteria are opportunistic pathogens, and responsible for many common diseases.

Heliobacter pylori:
This bacteria, responsible for stomach ulcers, has been linked with an increase in the likelihood of colon cancer. The inflammation from the infection leads to the mutation of cells in the colon, which become carcinogenic (Devlin, 2009). H. pylori is usually treated with antibiotics. Does this mean that colon cancer could be treated with a different version of those antibiotics? Probably not; that would be too simple. But it does give us an important link that will no doubt be instrumental in finding a cure.


Salmonella family
Researchers injected mice with a florescent, mutated strain of salmonella, which glowed when interacted with a sugar injection. The researchers observed that the bacteria had flocked to the cancer-ridden parts of the mice’s bodies (McKinnley, 2007). Much like the ideas with clostridium, the possibilities are wonderful, if we can grasp them. The foremost of these is the idea of injecting the salmonella with cancer-fighting properties and letting the bacteria do all the work.

Bacteria has the potential to be endlessly helpful in the fight against cancer, but it also has the potential to be extremely dangerous. In my opinion, the possibilities that these treatments offer is well worth the risk, considering that cancer is also deadly and the current treatments are not one hundred percent effective or “safe.”

Literature Cited
Society for General Microbiology. "Bacteria Successful In Cancer Treatment." ScienceDaily, 9 Sep. 2007. Web. 17 May 2011.

"Bacteria and cancer: cause, coincidence or cure? A review." Journal of Translational Medicine 4.14 (2006): n. pag. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

Devlin, Kate. "Scientists discover bacteria 'which causes colon cancer' ." Telegraph Aug 24, 2009: n. pag. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

McKinney, Matthew. "Salmonella May Cure Cancer." Yahoo! Health May 23, 2007: n. pag. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.