Neil S. Forbes, chemical engineering, was recently quoted in a story in New Scientist about how scientists are using Salmonella bacteria that have been detoxified to deliver drugs to kill cancer tumors, as in Forbes’ own long-term research. First published in 1956, New Scientist is a weekly science and technology magazine with a weekly audience of more than 3-million readers. Previously, Forbes has been interviewed and quoted in such significant media outlets as NPR, The Scientist, and the Boston Globe about subjects related to his highly funded research on Salmonella.
Forbes has been working for more than 13 years on non-pathogenic Salmonella bacteria that can use their own self-propulsion system to venture deep into tumors and deliver cancer-destroying agents, all without causing the vicious side effects of many chemotherapy treatments.
As the New Scientist article, written by Sally Adee, explained about research conducted at the University of California at San Diego: “In particular, this new method is the first to deliver drugs by programming bacteria to break apart and die. The technique not only releases the drugs, but also keeps the number of bacteria under control. ‘The major advance is that this is a way to provide sustained release of therapeutics in tumors,’ says Neil Forbes at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.”
Among other funding, Forbes has been working on a five-year, $1.56-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to engineer what he calls “super-safe Salmonella bacteria” to act as Trojan Horses and deliver cancer-killing agents directly into tumors. His Salmonella vectors are designed to steal into cancer tumors, interrupt essential cell processes there, destroy cancer cells, eliminate cancer stems cells, reduce tumor volume, and block the formation of metastases.
Related to that research, Forbes and his graduate student Miaomin Zhang also published the cover article of the Journal of Controlled Release (vol 199, February 10, 2015), which has an impact factor of 7.8. The title of the article is "Trg-deficient Salmonella colonize quiescent tumor regions by exclusively penetrating or proliferating."
“It sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?” Forbes has said about his research. “But Salmonella bacteria, in effect, are each little robots that can swim wherever they want. They have propellers in the form of flagella, they have sensors so they can tell where they’re going, and they’re also little chemical factories. So what we’re doing as engineers is controlling where they go, what chemical we want them to make, and when they make it.” (July 2016)