Other Detecting bowel cancer without a stool test (Jan 2024) Engineering tumor-colonizing E. coli Nissle 1917 for detection and treatment of colorectal neoplasia

Michael Harrop

Active member
Jul 6, 2023

"We've taken advantage of this bacteria's natural gravitation towards tumors and engineered it to release molecules that illuminate early cancers."

"Once the bacteria locates the tumor it releases a marker that we can then detect in urine, which shows cancer is present," Woods said.


Bioengineered probiotics enable new opportunities to improve colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, prevention and treatment. Here, first, we demonstrate selective colonization of colorectal adenomas after oral delivery of probiotic E. coli Nissle 1917 (EcN) to a genetically-engineered murine model of CRC predisposition and orthotopic models of CRC.

We next undertake an interventional, double-blind, dual-centre, prospective clinical trial, in which CRC patients take either placebo or EcN for two weeks prior to resection of neoplastic and adjacent normal colorectal tissue (ACTRN12619000210178). We detect enrichment of EcN in tumor samples over normal tissue from probiotic-treated patients (primary outcome of the trial).

Next, we develop early CRC intervention strategies. To detect lesions, we engineer EcN to produce a small molecule, salicylate. Oral delivery of this strain results in increased levels of salicylate in the urine of adenoma-bearing mice, in comparison to healthy controls. To assess therapeutic potential, we engineer EcN to locally release a cytokine, GM-CSF, and blocking nanobodies against PD-L1 and CTLA-4 at the neoplastic site, and demonstrate that oral delivery of this strain reduces adenoma burden by ~50%.

Together, these results support the use of EcN as an orally-deliverable platform to detect disease and treat CRC through the production of screening and therapeutic molecules.
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