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Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology


ISSN (Print): 1389-2010
ISSN (Online): 1873-4316

Viral-Mediated Gene Transfer for Cancer Treatment

Author(s): Deborah R. Wilson

Volume 3, Issue 2, 2002

Page: [151 - 164] Pages: 14

DOI: 10.2174/1389201023378445

Price: $65


Cancer is a multigenic disorder involving mutations of both tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes. A large body of preclinical data, however, has suggested that cancer growth can be arrested or reversed by treatment with gene transfer vectors that carry a single growth inhibitory or pro-apoptotic gene or a gene that can recruit immune responses against the tumor. Many of these gene transfer vectors are modified viruses that retain the capability of the virus for efficient gene delivery but are safer than the native virus due to modifications that eliminate or alter one or more essential viral functions. The field of viral-based gene transfer vectors for the treatment of cancer has now entered the final stage of clinical testing prior to possible product approvals. Three viral vectors are currently undergoing this Phase III or Phase II / III clinical testing for cancer treatment. All three of these vectors are based on adenovirus, a common human virus that in its native state can cause cold or flu-like symptoms. In two of these vectors, genes essential for viral replication have been replaced with the wild-type p53 tumor suppressor gene, a gene that is deleted or mutated in over 50% of human cancers and which, when transferred into tumor cells, can induce tumor cell death. The third vector retains more of the natural adenoviral functions and relies on replication in tumor cells to induce cell killing. These three vectors represent two of the approaches now being taken to develop viral-based gene transfer vectors for cancer treatment. Additional approaches include the transfer of genes capable of converting non-toxic prodrugs into toxic forms, using anti-angiogenic gene transfer to block the formation of tumor blood vessels, inhibiting the activity of oncogenes through blocks to transcription or translation, stimulating the bodys own immune system with immunomodulatory genes, and “cancer vaccination” with genes for tumor antigens. The data derived to date from clinical trials with viral-based vector systems are promising. The vectors have been generally well-tolerated without the severe toxicities common to standard cancer treatments. Many of these vectors have been demonstrated to have anti-tumor activity in a clinical setting and to lead to tumor regressions or to reductions in the rate of tumor growth. Furthermore, the safety profile of these vector systems has allowed for their clinical testing in combination with conventional cancer treatments to determine their benefit in multi-modality therapy. As part of their clinical development, all three of the vectors in Phase III and Phase II / III clinical trials are being tested for their benefit in combination with chemotherapy in randomized trials. The field is also looking to future product opportunities with improvements that will further increase potency, safety, and / or ease of administration. These developments may expand the number of cells that are susceptible to infection or may target the vector to particular tumor types following an intravenous administration. Some of these approaches are already in clinical testing. Additional opportunities may utilize multigene strategies to target multiple pathways in cancer cells or expand the use of cytotoxic or cytostatic gene transfer in combination with immunotherapy.

Keywords: pro-apoptotic gene, growth inhibitory gene, gene transfer vector, cancer vaccination, viral-based vector

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