Theses Doctoral

Engineered Bacteria for Cancer Immunotherapy

Chowdhury, Sreyan

The first reports of bacteria as a cancer therapy date back to the pioneering work of Dr. William Coley–now widely regarded as the father of immunotherapy. As far back as 1891, Coley demonstrated that the intratumoral injection of live and later heat-killed isolates of Streptococcus pyogenes and Serratia marcescens could induce durable remission in patients with bone and soft tissue sarcoma. While this therapy was deemed to unsafe at the time, Coley’s findings have formed the basis for our modern understanding of immunology and cancer immunotherapy. Over the past two decades, the advent of synthetic biology is driving a new era of medicine through the genetic programming of living cells. This transformative approach enables the creation of engineered systems that sense and respond to diverse environments, permitting safe and effective targeted delivery of therapeutic payloads within disease sites.

In this thesis, I seek to utilize principles from synthetic biology and immunology to engineer bacteria for immunotherapeutic delivery. I have developed multiple strains of non-pathogenic E. coli capable of colonizing solid tumors and delivering diverse immunotherapeutic payloads specifically within the tumor. This local delivery approach enables the utilization of therapeutic agents that may be otherwise systemically toxic. In one instance, we engineered an encoded nanobody antagonist of CD47 (CD47nb), an anti-phagocytic receptor commonly overexpressed in several human cancers. We show that delivery of CD47nb by tumor-colonizing bacteria increases activation of tumor-infiltrating T cells, stimulates rapid tumor regression, prevents metastasis, and leads to long-term survival in a syngeneic tumor model. Thus, engineered bacteria may be used for safe and local delivery of diverseimmunotherapeutic payloads leading to systemic antitumor immunity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Danino, Tal
Arpaia, Nicholas
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 27, 2021