Bacterial therapy for cancer pursued by Kansas City company

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City company is working to turn basic science discoveries at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and elsewhere into cures for cancer.  Now that company, BioMed Valley Discoveries, has had its first hint of success using a bacterium to fight cancer.

In a lab in south Kansas City, a therapy is created for dogs with cancer.  That same therapy is also made in a Maryland lab for early testing in humans.  It's a weakened version of a bacterium found in soil.  Clostridium novyi or C. novyi is injected into solid tumors.

"It destroys the tumors from the inside out, and we hope when combining it with traditional chemotherapy and radiation therapy, we would be able to effectively treat cancers that are difficult to treat otherwise," said Dr. Saurabh Saha of BioMed Valley Discoveries.

The founder of American Century Investments, the late Jim Stowers, and his wife, Virginia, started BioMed Valley Discoveries as an arm of the Stowers Institute.  Findings were just published in Science Translational Medicine on the first human who had one tumor injected with C. novyi.  There was significant destruction of the tumor although the patient died from tumors in other parts of her body.  A phase one clinical trial to determine safety continues.

Dr. Saha said this research represents the Stowers' vision.

"Taking a therapy that was for a decade or longer sitting on the shelf of an academic institution and many multi-national companies had passed up the opportunity to work on this," he said.

American Century gives more than 40 percent of its profits each year to the Stowers Institute and BioMed Valley Discoveries.  Since 2000, that amounts to more than a billion dollars.  American Century's CEO said employees are inspired by the early success of the therapy, and Kansas Citians should be proud.

"A lot of Kansas Citians have contributed to this success by investing with us and then allowing us to direct our profits to this important research," said Jonathan Thomas.

The profits have a purpose of saving lives.

The closest site to Kansas City for the clinical trial is in St. Louis.  There are very limited openings for patients since this is early research.  It will be years before the bacterial therapy could be FDA-approved.

For more on the study, CLICK HERE.