Optimizing Gram-positive Bacteria as a Candidate for Targeted Antitumor Therapy
Current limitations in cancer therapies motivated the bioengineering approach to genetically program living cells for cancer therapy. Genetic engineering of bacteria repurposes the natural capabilities of bacterial cells as programmable, safe, and localized vehicles for cancer treatment. While the genetic tools are much more widely available in Gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli, there are limits associated with the safety and efficacy of these bacteria. Gram-positive bacteria, Bacillus subtilis, as well as other species of bacilli, are non-pathogenic and have been deemed generally recognized as safe. However, to date, there has been little effort in engineering B. subtilis for biomedical applications such as cancer drug delivery, despite evidence that several bacilli naturally produce cytotoxic molecules. We aim to identify Gram-positives that can serve as novel candidates for antitumor therapies, while also expanding the available genetic toolbox for species of bacilli in the context of therapeutic drug delivery.
Dr. Bentley Shuster joined Dr. Tal Danino’s Lab in November 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow. At Columbia, she is working on engineering Gram-positive bacteria to serve as drug delivery vehicles for cancer therapy. Bentley received a Biology Ph.D. in 2019 at New York University. She is currently an F32 recipient; the additional support from the NIH helps to fund her effort of engineering alternatives to cancer therapies.