A bacterium found in soil could be a useful tool in fighting many types of cancer, reports the BBC. The Clostridium sporogenes bacterium, a relative to botulism and tetanus, produces spores that only grow when there is no oxygen. The human body is full of oxygen, but solid cancer tumors, such as those in the brain, breast, and prostate, are oxygen-free, so researchers can make anti-cancer drugs that only activate in those tumors thanks to enzymes produced by those bacteria.
The result is that the drugs go straight to the cancers and kill them while avoiding the non-cancerous parts of the body. "This is a totally natural phenomenon, which requires no fundamental alterations and is exquisitely specific," said the researcher leading this project. "We can exploit this specificity to kill tumor cells but leave healthy tissue unscathed." Patient trials are scheduled to begin in 2013.