Cancer Cell Therapy

Track 14: Cancer Gene Therapy

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells the proximate cause of which is an imbalance in cell proliferation and death breaking-through the normal physiological checks and balances system and the ultimate cause of which are one or more of a variety of gene alterations. These alterations can be structural, e.g., mutations, insertions, deletions, amplifications, fusions and translocations, or functional (heritable changes without changes in nucleotide sequence). No single genomic change is found in all cancers and multiple changes (heterogeneity) are commonly found in each cancer generally independent of histology. In healthy adults, the immune system may recognize and kill the cancer cells or allow non-detrimental host-cancer equilibrium; unfortunately, cancer cells can sometimes escape the immune system resulting in expansion and spread of these cancer cells leading to serious life threatening disease. Approaches to cancer gene therapy include three main strategies: the insertion of a normal gene into cancer cells to replace a mutated (or otherwise altered) gene, genetic modification to silence a mutated gene, and genetic approaches to directly kill the cancer cells. Pathway C represents immunotherapy using altered immune cells. Another unique immunotherapy strategy facilitated by gene therapy is to directly alter the patient's immune system in order to sensitize it to the cancer cells. One approach uses mononuclear circulating blood cells or bone marrow gathered from the patient.

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