Cancer gene therapy news backgrounder: New ideas fuel next generation gene therapy research

liver genes to both tumors and hidden cancer cells.

To date, at M. D. Anderson, gene therapy experiments are ongoing, or starting within several months, in metastatic lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and brain cancer. These studies are part of an ever-expanding "platform" of research that is devising next generation gene therapy designed to both effectively tackle other cancers and to be the safest treatment possible.

Researchers predict these therapies likely will be used in combination with other treatments until the time comes when genetic profiles can be developed of each individual person's unique cancer. Then, therapies tailored exclusively to the patient can be developed, and gene therapy may ascend, says Jack Roth, M.D., an M. D. Anderson researcher who is nationally known for his pioneering gene therapy work.

"In time, targeted gene therapy may help improve the outlook for many types of cancer," says Roth, director of the W. M. Keck Center for Cancer Gene Therapy at M. D. Anderson. "While we have a long way to go, I am increasingly optimistic about new gene therapy approaches to earlier treatment and, ultimately, to a strategy that may help prevent cancer development."

The beginnings

The evolution of cancer gene therapy began at M. D. Anderson more than a decade ago when two researchers undertook a set of landmark gene therapy studies.

Deisseroth, then chairman of the Department of Hematology (and now president of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in San Diego), was the first to try an experimental gene "augmentation" program in patients. His idea was to modify bone marrow cells, in patients who had either breast or ovarian cancer, with a gene designed to protect patients against resistance to chemotherapy drugs. In that way, the patients could receive larger, more beneficial doses of chemotherapy drugs. But the tests, conducted in 20 patients, were not successful because of the low amount of the ve

Contact: Nancy Jensen
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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