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International Journal of Microbiology
Volume 2016, Article ID 8451728, 14 pages
Review Article

Bacteria in Cancer Therapy: Renaissance of an Old Concept

1Department of Molecular Immunology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany
2Institute of Immunology, Hannover Medical School, 30625 Hannover, Germany

Received 23 September 2015; Revised 3 February 2016; Accepted 11 February 2016

Academic Editor: Todd R. Callaway

Copyright © 2016 Sebastian Felgner et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The rising incidence of cancer cases worldwide generates an urgent need of novel treatment options. Applying bacteria may represent a valuable therapeutic variant that is intensively investigated nowadays. Interestingly, the idea to apply bacteria wittingly or unwittingly dates back to ancient times and was revived in the 19th century mainly by the pioneer William Coley. This review summarizes and compares the results of the past 150 years in bacteria mediated tumor therapy from preclinical to clinical studies. Lessons we have learned from the past provide a solid foundation on which to base future efforts. In this regard, several perspectives are discussed by which bacteria in addition to their intrinsic antitumor effect can be used as vector systems that shuttle therapeutic compounds into the tumor. Strategic solutions like these provide a sound and more apt exploitation of bacteria that may overcome limitations of conventional therapies.