The American Cancer Society estimates that about 276,000 women will be diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast cancer in 2020. One in eight women are expected to develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.
A common existing form of treatment is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy works by targeting fast-growing cells within the body. However, since chemotherapy is administered intravenously, it may be ineffective on tumors that lack vasculature.
So what can we do? We’re Cornell iGEM and this is Lumicure. Lumicure combines bacterial therapy and an imaging device to detect, monitor, and mitigate breast cancer.
After a doctor identifies a tumor and gives a diagnosis of breast cancer, he or she can use Lumicure’s bacterial therapy system, Trichotherapy. Genetically modified E. coli are injected into the site of the tumor and then grow specifically in cancer cells through immune selection.
The bacteria then constantly produce the therapeutic trichosanthin, which then weakens and destroys cancer cells. The bacterial presence may also recruit components of the immune system into the tumor, assisting in the destruction of cancer cells. An included safety switch prevents the spread of bacteria into healthy tissue.
The patient can then monitor the primary tumor through Trichoscan: a self-operated fluorescent imaging device which detects a signal from a fluorescent protein produced by the bacteria known as mCardinal. The patient is also able to locate metastases elsewhere in the body.
With Lumicure, we hope to provide an innovative, viable framework for developing potential treatments for breast cancer and other forms of cancer in the future.