Abnormal overexpression of p53 is a predictive molecular biomarker

CHICAGO -- A common laboratory test that predicted poor outcome from traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatment for head and neck cancers now has been found to predict a good prognosis with treatment of p53 tumor suppressor gene therapy - making it potentially the first predictive biomarker test for a gene-based drug.

Researchers at Introgen Therapeutics, Inc., in Austin, Texas, found that patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck cancer (SCCHN) whose pre-treatment tumor samples over-expressed p53 protein were significantly more likely to respond to Advexin therapy than those whose tumor showed little p53 protein. Advexin is a gene based drug, injected directly into tumors, which uses an adenoviral vector to deliver the wild type p53 gene to tumor cells.

Results were presented at the first meeting on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development, organized by the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Not only do we now have a way to predict if the gene therapy is likely to succeed, those patients for which it does work are the hardest patients to treat," said Laura L. Licato, Ph.D., associate director for Clinical Research at Introgen. "Accumulation of p53 has corresponded with a poor response to traditional therapies, as well as lower survival and a shorter time to disease progression."

"Selecting those who have the best chance of responding to p53 tumor suppressor gene therapy also helps perfect clinical trial testing," Licato said.

The researchers specifically found, in a subset of patients from phase II clinical trials, that 73 percent of patients with p53-positive tumors responded to the therapy, compared to a 14 percent response in patients with tumors that were p53-negative. Median survival also increased to 11 months for p53-positive patients, compared to 3 months for those with p53-negative tumors.

Head and neck cancer is the fifth most common cancer wor

Contact: Warren Froelich
American Association for Cancer Research

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