Anthrax might be used to treat cancer

Anthrax, a deadly bioweapon, might soon be providing lives following the development by researchers of a mutated anthrax toxin that may be an effective cancer therapy.

An anthrax toxin that could kill tumor cells in mice has been developed by researchers at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Stephen Leppla and colleagues showed in a study that anthrax toxin is very selective in targeting melanoma cells despite the fact that the risk of non-cancer toxicity prevents any clinical use.

The mutated toxin, however, is only able to be turned on by matrix metalloproteinases, which are proteins that are overproduced only in cancer cells.

The mutated toxin, when tested in mice, was tolerated in a dose that would be lethal for the natural toxin in 100 percent of the animals.

The mutated toxin also showed a higher ability to kill melanoma tumors than natural anthrax because of its higher specificity and longer half-life in the blood. The mutated toxin also showed itself to be effective in killing other tumors in the colon and lungs.

The wider ability of the mutated toxin is believed to be because of the toxin's ability to block angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels.

The modified anthrax toxin could be clinically viable, the mouse results have shown, and could lead to the deadly toxin saving lives rather than taking them.