May 29, 2008
Gene Therapy Scores Small Success Against Cancer

A stem cell therapy that deliver a tumor suppressing gene showed some benefit in phase III clinical trials.

HOUSTON - A gene therapy invented at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is the first to succeed in a U.S. phase III clinical trial for cancer, as announced today at the American Society of Gene Therapy annual meeting in Boston.

Introgen Therapeutics, Inc., reported results of its phase III trial of Advexin(r), a modified adenovirus that expresses the tumor-suppressing gene p53, for end-stage head and neck cancer.

"Cells become cancerous because p53 no longer functions. Restoring p53 works unlike any current cancer treatment because it treats the cancer genome," said Jack Roth, M.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery, who invented the drug and co-founded Introgen. He remains a shareholder and paid consultant to Introgen, and the University of Texas System is also a shareholder in Introgen.

The p53 gene is inactivated in many types of cancer. Its normal role is to halt the division of a defective cell and then force the cell to kill itself.

But the benefit is pretty small. Average life expectancy was still only 7.2 months.

The trial showed that p53 expression in the patient's tumor before treatment is a reliable biomarker for how to treat head and neck cancer. Patients with a favorable p53 profile who received Advexin(r) had a median survival of 7.2 months, compared with 2.7 months for those whose tumor expressed high levels of mutant p53 before treatment. Patients with this unfavorable profile were better off taking the chemotherapy drug methotrexate, resulting in median survival of 5.9 months.

A measly 7.2 months counts as an improvement. Geez.

Just when will cancer cures become easy to do? 10 years? 20 years? Progress still seems excruciatingly slow.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 May 29 10:58 PM  Biotech Cancer

jp straley said at May 30, 2008 7:07 AM: Discusses cancer, effects of dichloroacetate. Site is non-scientific, anecdotal, but interesting.

Zeb said at May 31, 2008 1:16 AM:

What does this have to do with stem cell therapy exactly? or do you mean simply gene therapy?

clayton said at May 31, 2008 3:03 PM:

Hey randall,

I suggest you read up on
Read his book, "the cancer industry". He is an insider who left memorial sloan kettering regarding certain treatments being touted as poor when they were doing well. BTW cancer is 300 different diseases, not all of them expressed or occurring in the same manner.

Brian Wang said at June 3, 2008 9:32 AM:

I think getting widespread and cheap cancer and biomarkers for cancer development screening would be a very doable win which would improve cancer survival by large amounts even without better treatment. Doing for other cancers what Pap smears did for cervical cancer.

then using Granulocyte InFusion Therapy or other simple means to boost immune systems.
Would also provide a big boost, especially in being able to resist early stage cancer from getting
a foothold in the body or dislodging early cancer that was detected early.

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