Background: The applicant has generated a body of research work in the field of gene therapy for cancer. Our recent research has shown that oral administration of Bifidobacteria to mice results in translocation from the Gastro-Intestinal Tract (GIT) with subsequent homing to and replication specifically in tumours, providing high-level gene expression confined to tumours. These findings indicate potential for treatment and/or detection of cancer via ingestion of non-pathogenic bacteria. We have filed patents protecting this technology. Project Aim To further improve this technology and validate its potential for clinical use. Rationale Further skill sets are required to progress this research. These involve availing of state-of-the art expertise in cancer gene therapy and diagnostic techniques, as well as experience in advancing preclinical research to clinical trial. The US has 996 active gene therapy clinical trials featuring a range of vectors including bacteria. There are no active cancer gene therapy clinical trials in Europe using bacteria, while Ireland has yet to bring any gene therapy to trial. Lack of activity locally constrains the logical progression of the research of the applicant and his institution. Prof. Noriyuki Kasahara’s laboratory (proposed outgoing host) at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles is internationally renowned for cancer gene therapy research and is part of the Digestive Diseases Research Center, which specialises in GIT biology. UCLA also hosts the Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging, making this host uniquely suited to the proposed research in developing a gastrointestinal bacterial vector for cancer gene therapy and/or diagnosis. These centres are within a clinical facility with active clinical trials, in a biotechnology industry rich region. This fellowship will strengthen Europe’s collaborative links with world-leading groups, and equip the applicant with skills for his future research.
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