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NCI Conference on Microbial-Based Cancer Therapy

July 11th   -   12th 2017
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NCI Conference on Microbial-Based Cancer Therapy

National Institute of Health
National Cancer Institute

Wednesday, June 28, 2017         

On behalf of the National Cancer Institute and the conference organizing committee, I welcome the attendees and the speakers to the "Microbial based cancer therapy" conference, which was initiated by the NCI Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

While microbial based therapy is one of the oldest cancer therapy modalities, dating from the bacterial therapies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the subject is not well studied and research has yielded few effective and safe cancer treatments. Recent scientific advances in tumor biology, microbial pathogenesis, cancer immunity and new molecular tools make it possible to revisit the old concept from new perspectives, utilizing current scientific technologies.

At this conference, which is the first NIH-sponsored comprehensive meeting on this topic, speakers will describe the complex nature of the microbe-tumor interaction and discuss recent advances in the field. The goal is to present current research and to stimulate new research to harness the unique potential of viruses and bacteria to invade, damage or destroy human cells and induce immune responses to create new safe and effective therapeutic approaches to selectively eliminate cancer cells.

The conference's agenda includes sessions on the biology of microbe-tumor interactions, virus- and bacteria-based therapies, and translational aspects of microbial-based therapies. One of the main themes is highlighting opportunities for microbial based therapy where conventional therapy is inadequate such as tumor cell dormancy, tumor cells that are not well accessed by drugs, hypoxia or poorly vascularized tumors.

More than 550 scientists, from academia, industry and government, have registered for this multidisciplinary conference. A working group from across the NCI has brought together staff from the Divisions of Cancer Biology, Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, Cancer Prevention and the NCI Small Business Innovation Research program to plan and support this important meeting.

I hope that the conference will stimulate more research interest in the field and unleash new tools based on bacteria and viruses against cancer, augmenting NCI's efforts to find novel approaches to combat cancer.

Best regards,

Jeffrey D. White, M.D.
Director, Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis
National Cancer Institute, NIH

Microbial-based cancer therapy is an old concept that dates from the 19th century using live and heat-killed bacteria with reported effectiveness. As a treatment, microbial-based therapies for cancer were discontinued in the 1930ís because of side effects, toxicity, varied effectiveness, limited reproducibility and the advancement of radiotherapy and later chemotherapy.

However, the scientific advances in the last decades make it timely to revisit microbial-based cancer therapy from new perspectives. There are new research molecular tools and tremendous amounts of new scientific knowledge about cancer and microorganisms that can provide insights into ways of tapping the potential of microbial-based cancer therapy.

One important motivating factor for revisiting the concept of microbial cancer therapy is that there are areas that existing cancer therapies cannot address. While most existing cancer therapies have a single mode of action, oncolytic viruses are a new class of therapeutic agents with a dual mechanism of action; selective tumor cell killing and induction of systemic anti-tumor immunity. Moreover, current cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, continue to have limited efficacy due to their relative lack of specificity in targeting tumor cells, tumor cell dormancy, accessibility of the drug to tumor cells or hypoxia as these therapies predominantly target the well-vascularized active component of tumors limiting the effectivness of conventional therapies on poorly vascularized tumors or dormant cancer cells. In contrast, bacteria can infect many tissues and microorganisms have the unique ability to grow in anaerobic conditions, damage host cells and activate the immune system which may provide long lasting effects and potential broader tumor targeting. For example, it was demonstrated in vitro that tumor targeting bacteria can prompt quiescent, drug resistant cells, which are the majority in many tumors, to enter the cell cycle and become drug sensitive. Therefore, microbes are a potentially valuable multimodal tool to specifically target and invade cancer cells including cells that are resistant to current therapies, while activating the immune system.

The purpose of this conference is to stimulate research on microbial-based cancer therapy through presentation of current advances in the field from the perspectives of cancer biology and cancer therapy. The sessions will include talks on microbes-tumor interactions, virus and bacteria based therapies and translational aspects of microbial-based therapies. The speakers and attendees will discuss the mechanisms of microbial-based therapy, ways to avoid the failures of the past and potential strategies for successful microbial cancer treatment. The overall goal of the conference is to generate interest and facilitate new scientific collaborations and interactions that will lead to novel research studies that take advantage of the potential capabilities of microorganisms for cancer therapy.

General Information

For conference related questions please contact: Avi Rasooly


Natcher Center
NIH campus- Building 45
Bethesda, MD 20894

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