Mesothelioma Gene Therapy
A term that applies to treatments that strive to alter a gene's structure or function, gene therapy is one of the most promising treatments being tested today for a variety of diseases, including cancers like mesothelioma. The concept behind gene therapy is an easy one though the concepts aren't always simple to implement. Basically, gene therapy involves ways to replace faulty genes with ones that work properly.
Gene therapy clinical trials are underway for a variety of different diseases, not only cancer. Any disease or disorder that deals primarily with genetic changes may be a candidate for treatment with gene therapy. Cancer, because it involves not one but many gene flaws, may require that gene therapy be combined with other standard cancer therapies - like chemotherapy - in order to achieve the best results. Clinical trials that involve multi-modality therapy such as this are currently underway for a number of different kinds of cancers.
How Does it Work?
There are three different ways to address cancer via gene therapy:
- Genes are introduced into the body that will replace the genes found in cancer cells, thus altering the genes and making them susceptible to the affects of anti-cancer medications. This is called "suicide" gene therapy as it renders the gene's defense mechanisms useless.
- Genes may also be introduced into the body to stop the growth of blood cells that feed the cancer, hence, starving the cancer and stopping its spread.
- New genes are given to the patient to replace the "bad" genes that allow the cancer cells to rapidly multiply, therefore halting the growth of tumors.
In February 2008, the German medical journal Onkologie printed an article involving the study of "suicide" gene therapy in regards to treatment of mesothelioma. Mice were involved in the study and the authors reported a prolonged survival rate with the use of the therapy and, overall, significantly impressive results. Studies like this provide a basis for the future of new and better treatments for this hard-to-fight asbestos cancer.
Mesothelioma patients interested in participating in gene therapy trials should consult their mesothelioma doctor as to the availability of trials for which they may qualify.
American Cancer Society