Researchers have discovered a new gene therapy technique that is able to modify prostate cancer cells so that a patient’s body attacks and kills them.
The gene therapy technique causes the tumor cells in the body to self-destruct, resulting in the name “suicide gene therapy.”
Researcher found a 20% improvement in survival in patients with prostate cancer five years after treatment.
However, cancer experts assert that more research is necessary in order to judge the gene therapy’s effectiveness.
The study was led by researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. The study appears to show that the suicide gene therapy when combined with radiotherapy, could be promising treatment for prostate cancer in the future.
This gene therapy technique involves the cancer cells being genetically modified. The genetic modification allows the cancer cells to signal a patient’s immune system to attack them.
The body generally doesn’t recognize cancer cells as the enemy because they have involved from normal healthy cells.
The body reacts against an infection, conversely, the immune system doesn’t react to kill off the offending cancer cells.
Using a virus to carry the gene therapy into the tumor cells, the result is that the cells self-destruct, alerting the patient’s immune system that it is time to launch a massive attack.
In the study there were two groups of 62 patients. One group received the gene therapy twice while the other group received the treatment three times. The second group had more aggressive prostate cancer.
Both groups additionally received radiotherapy.
The survival rates after five years for 97% and 94%. This study, however, did not include a control group. Researchers assert the results showed a five to 20% improvement on previous studies of prostate cancer treatment.
Two years after the trial, cancer biopsy tests were found to be negative in 83% and 79% of the patients in the two groups.
Once the immune system has knowledge of the bad tumor cells, if they sprout up again, the body will know to kill them.
Unfortunately, the viruses used I this study cannot reproduce. Next generation viral therapies for cancer can selectively replicate in cancer cells, something that can kill the cancer cell directly and also help spread the virus to neighboring cancer cells.