Research on the relationship between microbiome and cancer has made significant progress in the past few decades. It is now known that the gut microbiome has multiple effects on tumour biology. However, the relationship between intratumoral bacteria and cancers remains unclear.

Growing evidence suggests that intratumoral bacteria are important components of the microenvironment in several types of cancers. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated that intratumoral bacteria may directly influence tumorigenesis, progression and responses to treatment. Limited studies have been conducted on intratumoral bacteria, and using intratumoral bacteria to treat tumours remains a challenge.

Bacteria have been studied as anticancer therapeutics since the 19th century when William B. Coley successfully treated patients with inoperable sarcomas using Streptococcus pyogenes. With the development of synthetic biological approaches, several bacterial species have been genetically engineered to increase their applicability for cancer treatment. Genetically engineered bacteria for cancer therapy have unique properties compared to other treatment methods.

They can specifically accumulate within tumours and inhibit cancer growth. In addition, genetically engineered bacteria may be used as a vector to deliver antitumour agents or combined with radiation and chemotherapy to synergise the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

However, various problems in treating tumours with genetically engineered bacteria need to be addressed. In this review, we focus on the role of intratumoral bacteria on tumour initiation, progression and responses to chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Moreover, we summarised the recent progress in the treatment of tumours with genetically engineered bacteria.

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