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

lead author of that study, Juan Fueyo, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology.

"Biologic viral therapy like this may be just what we need to treat a complex disease like cancer," says co-author Frederick Lang, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery when the study was published. "Cancer can be devious in that it does everything possible to evade destruction. But viruses are equally tricky in their quest to invade cells and propagate."

Now, Delta-24-RGD is expected to start the first phase of human testing in late summer 2004, with a two-staged clinical trial of 15 patients each. One stage will offer the treatment by injection to patients with recurrent gliomas who cannot be treated with surgery. Progress will be monitored with serial diagnostic scans. In the second stage, patients with a glioma will have the therapy, followed by surgery two weeks later. The excised tumor will be examined to see if it has been damaged.

This trial is just part of an ongoing larger "platform" of research that is continually refining Delta-24-RGD therapy, says Charles Conrad, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuro-Oncology who works with Fueyo, Lang and others on the "Delta team."

They have already created a second and now a third generation of the therapy, each of which is proving more adept in infecting cancer cells and disarming them. One idea is to insert genes into the viral smart bomb that will switch on chemotherapy drugs. This way, a patient could receive an inert form of a chemotherapy drug that would be non-toxic to normal cells, but would be activated by the Delta virus when it spreads in cancer cells. "We would deliver the gene that activates the chemotherapy drug only to tumor cells," says Conrad.

The team, which includes other international and national investigators, also is exploring adapting Delta-24-RGD to other cancer types, such as colon cancer. Questions rema

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

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