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Gene Therapy Shows Promise in Treatment of Cancer


Barb73

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http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/539458/

ARTICLE:

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Newswise — Thanks to the advances of molecular medicine and the mapping of the human genome, it is now certain that cancer is the result of defective or missing genes.

The Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT®) was created to support the extraordinary potential offered by gene therapy as a revolutionary model for effective and safe treatment of all types of cancer. To date, ACGT has awarded $18.8 million to fund 31 research projects in 25 prestigious medical institutions – all of which have shown promise in furthering the successful treatment of cancer.

“Molecular medicine is the new paradigm to treat and someday eradicate cancer,” said Edward Netter, co-founder and president, ACGT. “In the near future, ACGT is committed to devoting more grant awards in the hopes of encouraging researchers – especially young researchers - to move forward more rapidly, and eventually move their treatments into medical practice. We anticipate that gene therapy will someday make cancer a manageable disease with nominal side effects to patients.”

Currently, there are over 800 cancer gene therapy trials underway, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. ACGT has funded or facilitated 17 Basic Research/Laboratory Studies, five Pre-Clinical, eight Phase I Trials and one Phase II Trial.

“Gene therapy for cancer is revolutionary because it can lead to the eradication of tumors in ways that are distinct from existing treatment paradigms that include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and antibody therapy,” said Savio Woo, PhD, professor, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, chairman, ACGT Scientific Advisory Council. “This novel treatment can be used by itself and in conjunction with the existing therapies to achieve optimal outcome in patients including substantially prolonged survival.”

Research is being conducted on several approaches to gene therapy including:

replacing a missing or unhealthy gene with a functional and “healthy” gene;

immunotherapy which involves improving a patient’s own immune response to cancer;

inserting genes to improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation therapy;

inserting “suicide genes” into cancer cells (called apoptosis); and

inserting genes to strangulate cancer cells by cutting off their blood supply (called anti-angiogenesis).

Two-thirds of all gene therapy trials in the U.S. are for cancer and many of these are entering the advanced stage, including a Phase III trial for head and neck cancer and two different Phase III gene vaccine trials for prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. Additionally, numerous Phase I and Phase II clinical trials for cancers in the brain, skin, liver, colon, breast and kidney among others, are being conducted in academic medical centers and biotechnology companies, using novel technologies and therapeutics developed on-site.

Specifically, ACGT has funded scientists including:

Dr. George Coukos, assistant professor and director of the Center for Research on Ovarian Cancer Early Detection and Cure of the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, has worked in combating ovarian cancer by using “anti-angiogenic” gene therapy, which focuses on starving tumors from their supply of oxygen and nutrients by stopping the growth of new blood vessels. Additional therapies are underway, including development of tumor antigen vaccines. His lab has launched the first therapeutic vaccine trial for stage III and IV ovarian cancer. Dr. Coukos is a recipient of the ACGT Dr. Judah Folkman Angiogenesis Award for Cancer Gene Therapy.

Dr. Thomas Kipps, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Medicine and Deputy Director for Research at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, has developed a vaccine called Immune Stimulatory Factor 35 (ISF35), an active immune therapy product, or vaccine. Based on the results of previous studies, ISF35 has the potential to stimulate the immune system to act against Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia cells and fight them naturally. Memgen, a biomedical company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, licensed the technology for the ISF35 molecule from UCSD and continues clinical development of the molecule.

A complete list of the research supported by ACGT can be found by visiting http://www.acgtfoundation.org

“Gene therapy research is rapidly moving along a continuum from basic scientific study to translational laboratory research, to clinical trials with both humans and domestic animals and ultimately to clinical application,” continued Mr. Netter. “We look forward to being on the front lines in funding the basic foundation in gene therapy research.”

About The Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT®)

The Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) was founded in 2001 by Barbara and Edward Netter and is the only public charity in the nation dedicated exclusively to investing in research for cancer gene therapies. One hundred percent of all money raised goes to research grants with separate funding covering all administrative expenses. Based in Stamford Connecticut, ACGT is distinguished by its leadership, vision and the fusion of sound business principles and philanthropic investment with innovative scientific practice.

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(NewsWise, Medical News, Source: Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, April 4, 2008)

Disclaimer:

The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not posted as medical advice of any kind.

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