April 17, 2010 -- An Irish team of scientists based at University College Cork has found that probiotic yogurt could revolutionize the battle against cancer.
Researchers at the Cork Cancer Research Centre (CCRC) have found that harmless bacteria from probiotic yogurt (bifidobacteria) naturally travels through the body and can grow inside tumors.
The discovery could one day rule out the need for administering chemotherapy drugs via painful IV injections when.
It could also reduce the toxic effect many current cancer therapies have on healthy cells.
Principal investigator Dr. Mark Tangney said the "bacteria can leak out from the gut into the blood and grow inside tumors throughout the body where they can produce whatever we want."
"We can now genetically engineer these bacteria so that they will pump out anti-cancer agents specifically inside tumors," he said.
Tangney said the findings were very exciting because the main goal of cancer treatment is to focus therapy on tumors without harming healthy cells.
"When a patient's cancer has spread, then ideally, a treatment should be administered throughout a patient's body (eg intravenous administration) to allow treatment of any tumors present, including secondary tumors at early stages of development.
"However, current chemotherapy drugs administered in this fashion are toxic to many healthy cell types, often resulting in severe side effects for the patient. This is why we are so excited about this research," he said.
Tangney said future treatment "could be as simple as handing someone a yogurt suspension containing millions of bacterium."