Using Genetically Reprogrammed E.coli to Battle Cancer

Posted on 5 July 2019

Researchers have genetically reprogrammed E. coli to invade tumours in mice and release cancer-fighting “nanobodies.” These nanobodies enhance the detection and elimination of the cancer cells by the immune system.

Inducing systemic anti-tumor immunity with quorum-sensing bacteria carrying nanobodies

Programming bacteria to controllably express and release immunotherapies may enable the local delivery of higher effective concentrations of therapeutic agents whilst preventing the toxicities often observed following systemic delivery.

Researchers engineered a non-pathogenic strain of E. coli to (1) encode nanobodies against CD47 (CD47nb), an anti-phagocytic receptor that is commonly overexpressed in several human cancer types and (2) specifically lyse within tumours to release nanobodies.

Both intratumoural and intravenous delivery of CD47nb-expressing bacteria stimulates systemic tumour-antigen-specific immune responses that reduce the growth of untreated tumours


  1. Chowdhury, S., Castro, S., Coker, C. et al. Programmable bacteria induce durable tumor regression and systemic antitumor immunity. Nat Med 25, 1057–1063 (2019).
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