Australia’s iconic kangaroo may hold the secret for the war on cancer. Assoc. Prof. Ming Wei from the Griffith Institute of Health and Medical Research is using commensal bacteria found in kangaroos to develop anti-cancer agents that are expected to be effective in combating solid tumours, which account for up to 90 per cent of cancers.
The bacteria’s spore, injected into blood, can seek out a tumour mass and release special enzymes which soften the tumour. Ming says conventional therapies were unable to penetrate solid tumour mass, thus having a low success rate. “In the labs, we train the bacteria, so they develop their innate ability to colonise tumours, digesting them, and stimulating the body’s natural immune system,” he says. “The bacteria don’t need oxygen to multiply and they grow much faster than the tumour.”
Ming says the bacteria were also present in humans and soil but when in kangaroos they contained more protein-digesting enzymes. The theory was tested on tumours in mice, with a 30 to 45 per cent success rate. Clinical trials are expected to start in two years, where this novel approach will be applied together with anti-inflammatory therapy for best results.