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Research project: PROTumor
Engineered probiotic bacteria for the treatment of solid tumors
Project time: 01.02.10-31.12.13
Cluster coordinator: Prof. Dr. Florian Gunzer, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden
Project partners: (alphabetical order)
   Prof. Dr. Florian Gunzer, Technische Universität Dresden
   Prof. Dr. Matthias Gunzer, Universität Duisburg-Essen
   Dr. Siegfried Weiss, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH
   Dr. Kurt Zimmermann, Symbio Gruppe GmbH & Co KG

      Overview subprojects

Industrial partners:
   The Symbio Herborn Group GmbH, Herborn

In developed countries cancer represents the second most common cause of death behind cardiovascular diseases. Until now enormous advances were indeed achieved with newly developed cancer therapies, but in most cases only a prolonged survival instead of healing was gained. The development of bacteria for tumor therapy thus offers a completely new and innovative approach. It is well-known for a long time that most (facultatively) anaerobic bacteria are able to colonize solid tumors, to proliferate and to contribute tumor destruction. The first successful application of bacteria as tumor therapeutic agents was based on modified pathogens like Clostridium perfringens or Salmonella typhimurium. However, clinical use of such biologics evokes enormous problems with their safety and acceptance, why alternatives with an improved biological safety profile have to be found.

Thus, the PROTumor network (Fig. 1) has the aim to investigate the applicability of probiotic intestinal bacteria as tumor therapeutic agents. For this purpose, the project concentrates on the well established Escherichia coli strains Nissle 1917 (Fig. 2) and G3/10, which both have a proven safety record and are in use as probiotics in humans since decades. E. coli G3/10, a component of the probiotic drug "Symbioflor®2", is distributed by the industry partner SymbioPharm. PROTumor is aimed at genetically modifying these strains to enhance their efficiency to invade tumors and their selectivity for tumor tissue as well as to improve their biological safety. Furthermore, the fundamentals of colonizing and destructing tumors through these strains are to be discovered by using mouse tumor models and intravital microscopy. The translation of newly established oncolytic bacteria into pharmaceutical production as well as the evaluation of shelf life of the marketable product will be realised by the industry partner SymbioPharm.