The use of bacterial exotoxins may constitute novel adjuncts to treatment of gastrointestinal tract malignancies. Clostridium difficile toxin A was evaluated for its cytotoxic effect in vitro on 24 human cell lines and strains including carcinomas of the colon, pancreas, prostate, lung, breast, and lymphoid malignancies, as well as nonmalignant tissues. All nine colon and five pancreas cell lines were extraordinarily sensitive to the cytotoxic effect of Clostridium difficile toxin A at very low concentrations. This effect, which occurred rapidly and was dose dependent, was observed in all cells of seven colon and two pancreas cell lines at concentrations as low as 1–5 ng/ml (10-12 to 10-11M), whereas cells derived from other sites required 60 to greater than 500 ng/ml to achieve an equivalent effect. The data suggest that Clostridium difficile toxin A may have potential therapeutic value in the treatment of some gastrointestinal tract cancers.


This work was supported, in part, by a grant from The Cancer Center of The Medical College of Wisconsin.

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