April 23, 2013

Radioactive Listeria Bacteria: Promising New Weapon Against Pancreatic Cancer

Most of us recognize Listeria as one of the bacteria found in soil, raw and undercooked foods, and unpasteurized dairy products, which can cause serious illness including a high risk of miscarriage in pregnancy. However, researchers at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine have discovered this pathogen can be tagged with a radioisotope and drafted to fight a dreaded disease: metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

Dr. Claudia Gravekamp and Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, co-senior authors of the study and professors at Albert Einstein, have developed a method of using a weakened strain of Listeria monocytogenes tagged with a short half-life rhenium isotope to selectively infect tumor cells (Abstract from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). According to Dr. Gravekamp, in a press release from the university,
"We're encouraged that we've been able to achieve a 90 percent reduction in metastases in our first round of experiments...[w]ith further improvements, our approach has the potential to start a new era in the treatment of metastatic pancreatic cancer."
As Dr. Dadachova also explains in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine press release,
"We chose rhenium because it emits beta particles, which are very effective in treating cancer...also, rhenium has a half-life of 17 hours, so it is cleared from the body relatively quickly, minimizing damage to healthy tissue."

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