In experiments with laboratory animals, Mount Sinai researchers have demonstrated that their approach, known as tumor immunization, extended life in all animals tested and wiped out cancer entirely in up to 20-30% of animals whose breast or colorectal cancer had spread. With currently available treatments, the prognosis for patients with breast or colorectal cancer which has spread to other organs, including the liver, is poor.
"Cancer cells are able to grow unimpeded by the body's defenses because they look very similar to healthy cells, with only very subtle differences that pass under the radar screen of the body's immune cells," said Savio Woo, PhD, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "We use gene transfer technology to insert an immune enhancing gene into the cancer cells that makes them visible to the body's natural immune defenses."
The method of tumor immunization which Mount Sinai researchers developed involves transferring a gene that codes for Interleukin-12 (IL12) into cancer cells directly in the patient's tumor. IL12 is a potent immune enhancing protein that is not normally produced by cancer cells. When the cancer cells produce this protein as a result of gene transfer it acts as a signal to a special class of white blood cells of the immune system telling them, "These cancer cells are dangerous. Come over here and destroy them."
The laboratory animal studies conducted by Dr. Woo and colleagues have provided evidence that delivering the IL12 gene to cancer cells can trigger a targeted immune respons
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