New Advance in Gene Therapy for Cancer

Special virus spares healthy cells

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MONDAY, Jan. 31, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- A technique that uses a specially designed virus may help overcome a major stumbling block in using gene therapy to treat cancer, say Columbia University Medical Center researchers.

This approach appears to offer a solution to a problem in gene therapy for cancer -- the tendency to destroy healthy cells as well as cancer cells.

The Columbia team developed gene therapy that uses a specially designed virus. In laboratory and animal testing, this method killed prostate cancer cells but left healthy cells intact.

The researchers say that gene therapy based on this approach should be effective for many kinds of tumors -- including breast, brain, ovarian, skin and colon cancer.

"What's exciting is we can now design a therapy that will seek out and destroy only cancer cells," study senior author Paul B. Fisher, a professor of clinical pathology, said in a prepared statement.

"We hope it will be particularly powerful in eradicating metastases that we can't see and that can't be eliminated by surgery or radiation. Gene therapy, especially for cancer, is really starting to make a comeback," Fisher said.

The study appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about gene therapy for cancer.

SOURCE: Columbia University, news release, Jan. 25, 2005

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