Mews: Cat poop parasite may cure cancer

Hi everyone,

This is a very interesting press release that we found on Discovery the other day! I do hope that they can further advance this past the lab tests. 🙂

A kitty poop parasite has led to a treatment that wipes out cancer in lab tests, including aggressive melanoma and ovarian cancer, preliminary studies have found.

By itself, the single-celled parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is bad news because it can cause illness in infected people and cats. It thrives in the intestines of cats and then comes out the other end.

But scientists at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have figured out a way to engineer a new version of the parasite that they say has remarkable cancer-fighting powers.

“We know biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer,” explained David J. Bzik, a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth.

“The biology of this organism is inherently different from other microbe-based (treatments) that typically just tickle immune cells from the outside,” said senior research associate Barbara Fox. “By gaining preferential access to the inside of powerful innate immune cell types, our mutated strain of T. gondii reprograms the natural power of the immune system to clear tumor cells and cancer.”

The mutated parasite is called “cps.” Lab tests show that it’s non-replicating and safe to use. Even if the recipient has a weakened immune system, as often happens with chemotherapy, cps still retains its cancer-fighting powers in the body.

“Aggressive cancers too often seem like fast-moving train wrecks,” As Bzik said. “Cps is the microscopic, but super-strong, hero that catches the wayward trains, halts their progression, and shrinks them until they disappear.”

During the lab studies, he and his colleagues used cps to treat extremely aggressive cases of melanoma and ovarian cancer in mice. The scientists found unprecedented high rates of survival.

Yet another remarkable feature of this new weapon against cancer is that it could even be tailored to the individual patient.

“In translating cps therapy to the clinic, we imagine cps will be introduced into cells isolated from the patient,” Bzik said. “Then, Trojan Horse cells harboring cps will be given back to the patient as an immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine to generate the ideal immune responses necessary to eradicate their cancer cells and to also provide life-long immunity against any future recurrence of that cancer.”

More studies are needed, as the researchers are still trying to understand how cps works so well. They continue to examine its molecular targets and mechanisms.

Bzik concluded, “Cancer immunotherapy using cps holds incredible promise for creating beneficial new cancer treatments and cancer vaccines.”

If that holds true, future generations may see kitty litter in a whole new light.

Photo: Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Original article can be found here. And additional reading material on Science Daily can be found here.



Don't miss out!
Subscribe To Newsletter

Receive top cat news, competitions, tips and more!

Invalid email address
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

28 thoughts on “Mews: Cat poop parasite may cure cancer

    • Marc-André says:

      Unfortunately there is loads of stuff in the kitty litter that’s not so good for us ;(. But the finding of this parasite sure sound like something positive! 🙂

  1. Linda Arthur Tejera says:

    It would be beyond wonderful but, skeptic that I am, I doubt very seriously that it will be taken very far. There’s too much money in cancer research and current treatment methods. I’ve heard of other things that might cure or treat cancer but always only briefly and then the story quickly disappears. I don’t like to sound so negative about things but I’m also a realist and know that greed rules too often.

  2. franhunne4u says:

    My little one died of Toxoplasma g. – she had several bouts and the fourth took her life. T. is a strange life form, it only reproduces asexually in humans and any other mammals – but for our feline friends, in whose intestines it can exchange DNA (reproduce sexually).
    From Wikipedia:
    A number of studies have suggested subtle behavioral or personality changes may occur in infected humans,[13] and infection with the parasite has recently been associated with a number of neurological disorders, particularly schizophrenia.[10]
    and from the National Center for Biotechnology Information:
    (They had found a certain increase in suicides with increases in allergies:)
    If allergy (a misdirected immune response against innocuous substances that were “misperceived” by the immune system as invasive pathogens) is associated with suicidal behavior, one would expect real neurotropic parasites to also be associated with suicide behavior. ”
    “When ingested by an intermediate host, the parasite spreads from the intestine to other organs, finally localizing in muscle and brain. In the brain, the parasite will hide within neurons and glial cells, intracellularly, ultimately in cystic structures. ”
    “T. gondii transforms from tachyzoite to bradyzoite forms under the pressure of the adaptive immune response. The bradyzoite live in cystic structures that persist for the life of the individual, occasionally release bradyzoite that are able to infect other cells and transform into tachyzoites for a brief time, considering the immediate pressure from the adaptive immune system. Immunodeficiency may result in toxoplasmic encephalitis.”
    and to add to the risk of T G
    “the immune response in the brain involves activation of immune mechanisms previously implicated in suicide and suicide risk factors ”

    So I am not sure this “cure” is not worse than the already deadly disease it shall treat.

    Of course I would love our felines being able to cure cancer. But I am not so enthusiastic, given all the other effects of an infection with TG.
    And no, I have not understood the scientific paper of NCBI completely – I dropped out of chemistry classes before I was 16 (it just was not taught, not because I did not want it anymore) and my biology classes were not dealing with bio-chemistry or biotechnology.

    • Marc-André says:

      Ah! That’s no good O.O. Thee may be ways though to identify what part of the parasite cures. Because more than likely it is a chemical within the parasite. Or if not maybe a way of using them for periods of time only if we find a safe way to remove them or counter treat. I took biochemistry classes in school but even with that the paper doesn’t make fully sense. I guess you have to go to university for that ;o

  3. Sara Atkinson, Yorkshire Cat Rescue says:

    As we often fundraise for our cat rescue and get comments like “you shouldn’t be fundraising for cats, you should be fundraising for cancer…” this is something that we can use to show to people how much our two species are intertwined. Hope it comes off!

    • Marc-André says:

      Exactly! And not to forget how good a cats purr is for people. One of my
      Local housing charities has what they call “therapy cats” who are all rescue cats that keep the elderly residents company. 🙂

Why not meow a comment to fellow readers?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.