'Suicide' Genes Help Slow Ovarian Tumor Growth in Mice

Treatment could be tested in women within 18 to 24 months, expert suggests

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THURSDAY, July 30, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with "suicide" genes slowed ovarian tumor growth in mice and may one day offer a way to treat late-stage ovarian cancer in women, U.S. scientists say.

Currently, there is no effective treatment for advanced ovarian cancer that has recurred after surgery and primary chemotherapy, according to a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.

In the laboratory experiments on mice, the researchers found that nanoparticle delivery of diphtheria toxin-encoding DNA selectively expressed in ovarian cancer cells significantly slowed the growth of ovarian tumors. The findings appear online in the journal Cancer Research.

"This report is definitely a reason to hope," lead researcher Janet Sawicki, a professor at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, said in the news release. "We now have a potential new therapy for the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer that has promise for targeting tumor cells and leaving healthy cells healthy."

The new treatment, which could be tested on humans within 18 to 24 months, could prove to be a significant advance in targeted therapy for cancer, according to Dr. Edward Sausville, an associate editor of Cancer Research and associate director for clinical research at the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland.

"In oncology we have been studying ways to kill tumors for a long time, but much of this has run up against the real estate principle of location, location, location. In other words, an effective therapy is not effective if it cannot get to the target," Sausville said in the news release.

He noted that the approach described in this study offers multiple ways to target ovarian cancer cells.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, July 30, 2009

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