Mesothelioma Gene Therapy
Gene therapy is a very broad term. It refers to any sort of treatment that can alter a gene’s function or structure. The American Cancer Society dubs gene therapy one of the most promising treatments for cancer and other diseases that deal primarily with genetic changes. It also has potential as a preventive therapy for those who may be a candidate for developing certain kinds of cancer.
Genes have a lot to do with our health. When they deliver flawed instructions to the growing cells in our bodies, our health can be adversely affected in a number of ways. The idea behind gene therapy for the treatment of cancers such as mesothelioma is to replace those faulty genes with ones that work properly.
There are a few different ways scientists have approached gene therapy for cancer. One way is to literally starve the cancer by introducing genes into the body that will stop the growth of the blood vessels that feed the tumor. Another way to use gene therapy to treat cancers like mesothelioma is to introduce genes into the body that will act as replacements for the genes found in cancer cells, hence, altering the cells. After the new genes are introduced, they become susceptible to anti-cancer medications and their defense mechanisms become useless, creating “suicide” genes. Thirdly, new genes can replace the faulty genes that allow cancer cells to multiply rapidly, therefore slowing or halting the growth of tumors.
Much research is still being conducted in conjunction with gene therapy and the treatment of cancer. It is surmised that since cancer is a combination of gene flaws and not just one, gene therapy for cancer patients will be best used in conjunction with common standard therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation.
The February 2008 issue of the German medical journal, Onkologie, featured an article on gene therapy and mesothelioma. It involved the study of the “suicide” gene therapy model, used on mice, and the authors noted “impressive results” and a “significantly prolonged survival” time. Studies like this continue and have been the impetus for more trials combining gene therapy with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
Currently, gene therapy is still experimental and it is only available to cancer patients via clinical trials. Mesothelioma patients interested in participating in these studies should ask their doctor if there are any current trials for which they qualify.
Last modified: December 24, 2010.