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Anthrax: killer becomes saviour for cancer patients

By Staff

Washington, Jan 6 (UNI) The bacteria, which claimed a number of lives and created panic around the world, has resurfaced again -- but in a new avatar.

Stephen Leppla and colleagues have created a mutated anthrax toxin that could only be turned on by matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), proteins that were overproduced only in cancer cells.

When they tested this mutated toxin in mice, the researchers observed that 100 per cent of the animals tolerated a dose that would be lethal for the natural toxin, Science Daily reported.

The MMP-toxin was also better at killing melanoma tumors than natural toxin, due to its higher specificity and longer half-life in the blood.

They also noted that MMP-toxin was not limited to melanoma, and could also kill other tumours like colon and lung. This more widespread activity was due to the toxin's ability to inhibit angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels.

The encouraging results suggest that modified anthrax toxin could be clinically viable, and this potent killer might be put to good use.


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