Friday, February 22, 2008

New Gene Therapy Targets Brain Cancer Cells

Cancer Research UK has this news update about a new gene therapy approach to GBM, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Here is a sample from the story:

Scientists are developing a new gene therapy approach that 'trains' the immune system to destroy brain cancer cells and may even restore normal brain function.

The approach is being tested on animal models with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an aggressive form of brain cancer that often affects concentration, memory and balance as the tumour compresses nerve cells.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre used a modified virus to deliver two therapeutic proteins directly into tumour cells.

One of the proteins, 'FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand' (Flt3L), attracted a class of immune cell called dendritic cells to the brain. Dendritic cells clear up dying cells and alert the immune system to the existence of foreign objects, such as cancer cells.

The other protein, 'Herpes simplex virus type 1 thimidine kinase' (HSV1-TK), when combined with the antiviral drug gancyclovir, proved directly toxic to tumour cells.

Publishing their initial findings in the journal Molecular Therapy, the researchers revealed that around 70 per cent of animals survived, compared to just 20 per cent when the dendritic-cell inducing Flt3L was left out.
The publication of the study in Molecular Therapy is here.