Direct injections of a common bacteria into a tumor can shrink solid tumors, according to a preliminary study published in the Science Translational Medicine.

Nicholas J. Roberts, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, and colleagues introduced intratumoral injections of an attenuated strain of Clostridium novyi (C. novyi-NT) in a rat orthotopic brain tumor model. Additionally, to better model human responses, the researchers similarly introduced intratumoral injections of C. novyi-NT spores in canine tumors.


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The researchers found that the attenuated strain of C. novyi-NT induced a microscopically precise, tumor-localized response in the rat model. The injections were well tolerated in companion dogs bearing spontaneous solid tumors. The most common toxicities observed were the expected symptoms associated with bacterial infections. 

Six of 16 dogs (37.5 percent) had objective responses, with three complete and three partial responses. Similar treatment was tried in a human patient with advanced leiomyosarcoma. The intratumoral injection reduced the tumor within and surrounding the bone.

“Together, these results show that C. novyi-NT can precisely eradicate neoplastic tissues and suggest that further clinical trials of this agent in selected patients are warranted,” the authors write.

Several researchers disclosed financial ties to medical device companies, including BioMed Valley Discoveries, which partially funded the study.

  1. Roberts, Nicholas J., et al. “Intratumoral injection of Clostridium novyi-NT spores induces antitumor responses.” Science Translational Medicine. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008982. August 13, 2014.