New study leverages bacteria to detect liver cancer in mice

Taking advantage of the liver’s ability to collect microbes, a team led by Sangeeta Bhatia of the Broad Institute and MIT, and Jeff Hasty of the University of California, San Diego, designed a synthetic bacterium to accumulate in – and detect – liver metastases, a pressing clinical need. The team used a safe and widely used probiotic E. coli strain to develop an orally administered diagnostic that can noninvasively indicate the presence of liver metastases by producing easily detectable signals in urine. Appearing in Science Translational Medicine, the study demonstrates the potential for programmable probiotics in diagnostic and, potentially, therapeutic cancer applications. Read coverage of the study in The Scientist and U.S. News and World Report to learn more.