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Cancer pain control possible with gene therapy

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 15 By "programming" a herpes simplex virus to deliver a gene-mediated pain-blocking protein at the cellular level, University of Pittsburgh researchers have been able to significantly reduce cancer-related pain in mice with tumors, the researchers report in the November issue of the journal Annals of Neurology. The paper, "Herpes vector-mediated expression of proenkephalin reduces bone cancer pain," is now available online at the journal's Web site, http://www.interscience.wiley.com/jpages/0364-5134/.

"Chronic pain is notoriously difficult to treat effectively," said co-author Joseph Glorioso, Ph.D., chairman of the department of molecular genetics and biochemistry and director of the Molecular Medicine Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and president of the American Society of Gene Therapy. "We've been able to show that using this virus can significantly reduce bone cancer pain at least in mice."

The investigators are pursuing necessary approvals to begin a clinical trial in patients with severe pain resulting from metastatic cancer, and hope to start enrolling patients sometime next year.

"We are excited about the possibility that this approach may help to control pain in patients who can't get complete relief from the maximum current treatment," said senior author David Fink, M.D., professor of neurology and molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and chief of neurology and director of the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Drs. Fink, Glorioso and their colleagues created an inactivated herpes simplex virus that carries the human gene for proenkaphalin, a naturally occurring painkilling peptide, a combination of amino acids.

Mice with tumors in a leg bone that received injections with the alte
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Contact: Michele Baum
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
15-Oct-2002


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