Emory Researchers Advance Gene Therapy Studies For Metastatic Melanoma Treatment

generates enough GM-CSF to stimulate the mouse to mount a heightened immune response and destroy the tumor."

"In our studies, positioning the GM-CSF in direct contact with the melanoma cells could make a big difference," adds Ansel. "It may pack a much bigger punch than when it is coursing through the circulatory system."

Most clinical gene therapy for melanoma now being conducted around the country treats patients systemically, and results have not been particularly promising.

"We are experimenting not only with injecting the gene directly into the tumor," says Dr. Armstrong, "but also injecting the actual cytokine itself."

The presence of cytokines such as GM-CSF may eventually provide valuable prognostic indicators for melanoma that could improve treatment. The trick is to determine which cytokines actually combat tumor enlargement and which ones create a fertile environment in which the tumor fluorishes. The presence of certain cytokines may indicate that a tumor is indeed fast-growing, calling for a more aggressive therapy than might a more gradual growth.

For example, Drs. Ansel and Armstrong have recently completed a study using pathology archives to contrast the thickness of melanoma tumors. The researchers found that those tumors which produced GM-CSF were all thinner than those tumors which produced the cytokine IL8, which is known in many melanomas to be an autocrine growth factor.

Eventually Winship Cancer Center scientists plan to devise an entire menu of cytokine cell markers that would act as a road map for tumor behavior. They hope that the markers might also indicate how the tumors would react to different therapies. The significant number of studies currently underway throughout the country on cytokine markers makes this a realistic goal for the near future.

Drs. Ansel and Armstrong and their colleagues in Emory's Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Center are developing a new

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Emory University Health Sciences Center

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