The Medical Advisory Board of Earlier.org (Friends For An Earlier Breast Cancer Test®) has awarded a $40,000 grant to Neil Forbes of our Chemical Engineering Department. His grant proposal is titled, “Detection of micro-scale tumors and metastases with non-toxic bacteria.” Forbes proposes a breast cancer detection technique for micro-scale cancer lesions that can discover both early breast tumors and small metastatic lesions after primary tumor resection. His technique for early breast cancer detection would reduce cancer spreading and increase patient survival. The proposed research will create a non-toxic and non-invasive Salmonella strain that expresses and secretes an exogenous biomarker specifically in breast cancer, and then this simple “cancer reporter” can be detected in a blood sample.
Forbes says Salmonella typhimurium can be engineered to detect both early breast tumors and micro-scale metastatic lesions. Once the bacteria have detected the cancer, it can be removed from the patient’s body by triggering a genetic failsafe mechanism that induces bacterial cell death, Forbes says.
As the abstract of Forbes’ proposal describes his research: “Current methods to detect breast cancer have limited specificity and sensitivity because of tumor size and heterogeneity. Non-toxic bacteria can be engineered to overcome these problems. It has been shown that systemically administered Salmonella typhimurium colonize tumors in ratios of 10,000:1 compared to healthy tissue and target lesions as small as 5 cell layers thick.”
The abstract also explains that “Clinical trials with the attenuated Salmonella showed that the bacteria can safely be administered to patients and accumulate in tumors. Utilizing these unique targeting characteristics we propose a breast cancer detection technique for micro-scale cancer lesions that can detect both early breast tumors and small metastatic lesions after primary tumor resection. The proposed research will create a non-toxic and non-invasive Salmonella strain that expresses and secretes an exogenous biomarker specifically in breast cancer. This cancer reporter can be detected in a blood sample. After detection the bacteria can safely be cleared from the patient by triggering a genetic failsafe mechanism that induces bacterial cell death.”
Earlier.org says discovery of an earlier biological test will raise a red flag that breast cancer is in the body — possibly before a tumor has even formed. Patients would then be able to begin treatment far earlier than it is available now. In addition, surgery could be minimized, if not eliminated and the damage that cancer does to the body could be minimized as well. Treatments are constantly improving, so new approaches could be employed on an ongoing basis.
The group also believes a dependable biological test would allow a breast cancer survivor and the attending medical team to rest assured that they would be quickly aware if a recurrence occurred. Action could then be initiated quickly.
Since its founding in 1995, Earlier.org has worked and focused solely on the earlier detection of breast cancer, ideally a BIOLOGICAL TEST, which has the potential to reduce or prevent invasive surgery, minimize treatment, and dramatically increase survival rates. (July 2014)