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Tal Danino, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Columbia University
New York, New York
American Association for Cancer Research

Current Research

  • Seeking to develop a probiotic therapy for metastatic breast cancer.

  • Laboratory studies are conducted to develop a bacteria-based drug delivery system that specifically targets tumor cells. 

  • This unique delivery vehicle could counter limitations of immunotherapies by locally delivering therapy and also stimulating the immune system.

Microbes have been found to affect the development of breast cancer as well as outcomes of chemotherapy and targeted agents, often by modulation of the immune system. An emerging field called Synthetic Biology has made rapid advances in engineering bacteria to control their dynamic behavior. Dr. Danino designed a bacterium to act as an anti-cancer “Trojan Horse”; they selectively target tumors, grow inside them, and then self-destruct, effectively releasing cancer drugs. His current research is focused on using specially-designed bacteria to deliver immunotherapy to the tumors. 

Full Research Summary

Microbiome research has revealed the widespread prevalence of microbes within the human body. These microbes have been shown to affect the development of breast cancer as well as outcomes of chemotherapy and targeted agents, often by modulation of the immune system. Surprisingly, several recent studies have also revealed the presence of bacteria specifically in both healthy and malignant breast tissue.

After reaching tumors, bacteria grow selectively in dead zones in the tumor core, which serves as an ideal environment for bacteria. This has prompted the investigation into the use of bacteria as a selective target for cancer. Since bacteria can be easily manipulated, they can be modified to produce cancer therapeutics from within tumors, acting as a “Trojan Horse”. 

Dr. Danino will cultivate specially designed bacteria to target tumors and deliver immunotherapies directly to the tumor cells. These immunotherapies will make the tumor cells more amenable to killing by the patient's own immune system. At the same time, the modified bacteria will recruit and activate immune cells.These studies will lead to the development of best candidates for further development and clinical trials.


Tal Danino, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering and leads the Synthetic Biological Systems Laboratory at Columbia University in the City of New York. He received a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, focused on Synthetic Biology, and completed his postdoctoral training at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT where he developed the use of bacteria to detect and treat cancer. In addition to his research, Dr. Danino also brings science outside the laboratory as a TED Fellow and through science-art and outreach projects.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Danino Talo

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Pink Agenda Award in Memory of Larissa Podermanski

Area(s) of Focus