Photo: James Platt

Friends and colleagues: From left, K. Brooks Low, David Bermudes, John M. Pawelek
When the public hears about Salmonella, it is usually in a warning about food poisoning, but a group of researchers in New Haven, Conn., is using the bacteria to target cancer. It turns out that Salmonella preferentially colonize and multiply within a tumor, thereby inhibiting growth. Vion Pharmaceuticals is taking advantage of this trait by genetically altering Salmonella typhimurium to reduce the serious toxicities associated with wild-type infection and create a novel cancer treatment.

The association between bacterial infection and tumor regression has existed since the turn of the century. William B. Coley, attending bone surgeon at Memorial Hospital, now Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, noticed that patients who developed severe infections after surgery for sarcoma fared much better than those who did not develop postoperative infections. Based on these observations, Coley purified...

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