Anthrax could deliver the cancer drugs of the future

Sep 30, 2014

Image credit: Laura Rose and Janice Haney Carr/CDC

By Fiona MacDonald

Anthrax, a potentially fatal disease caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacterium, infamous for being used as a biological weapon inside letters in 2001, is back – but scientists have now managed to turn it into a non-toxic, efficient drug delivery platform.

“Anthrax toxin is a professional at delivering large enzymes into cells,” Bradley Pentelute, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and senior author of the paper, told Anne Trafton for an MIT story on the discovery. “We wondered if we could render anthrax toxin nontoxic, and use it as a platform to deliver antibody drugs into cells.”

Now the scientists have successfully shown that they can do just that, and their research is published in ChemBioChem.

In the study, Pentelute and his team showed that they could use a “disarmed” version of the anthrax toxin to deliver two cancer-killing proteins known as antibody mimics into cells. These antibody mimics are important because they disrupt specific proteins inside cancer cells and are therefore capable of destroying them, but until now scientists haven’t been able to work out how to get them into cells.

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