In mice, antibiotics helped the cancer treatment regain its power
Some bacteria may shield tumor cells against a common chemotherapy drug.
Certain types of bacteria make an enzyme that inactivates the drug gemcitabine, researchers report in the Sept. 15 Science. Gemcitabine is used to treat patients with pancreatic, lung, breast and bladder cancers.
Bacteria that produce the enzyme cytidine deaminase converted the drug to an inactive form. That allowed tumor cells to survive gemcitabine treatment in lab dishes and mouse studies, Leore Geller of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and colleagues discovered. More than 98 percent of the enzyme-producing microbes belong to the Gammaproteobacteria class, which includes E. coli and about 250 bacterial genera.
Pancreatic tumors taken from human patients also carried the enzyme-producing bacteria. Of 113 pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma samples studied, 86 contained gemcitabine