May 11, 2011
Microbubbles Against Prostate Cancer

One problem with gene therapy is how to deliver the genes. The immune system will react to gene carrier packages, the liver potentially could filter out the gene therapy packages, and genes usually should go to only a small number of cell types and organs Packaging gene therapy into microbubbles enables better control and success for delivering gene therapy into cancer cells in prostates.

Richmond, Va. (May 10, 2011) Cancer researchers are a step closer to finding a cure for advanced prostate cancer after effectively combining an anti-cancer drug with a viral gene therapy in vivo using novel ultrasound-targeted microbubble-destruction (UTMD) technology. The research was conducted by scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and School of Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues from Washington University School of Medicine and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.

In their study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, prostate cancer growth in mice with functioning immune systems was inhibited by sensitizing the cancer cells with the drug Sabutoclax (BI-97C1) and using UTMD technology to deliver a viral gene therapy that expresses the gene mda-7/IL-24. This powerful new approach to treating prostate cancer builds upon prior studies by principle investigator Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., Thelma Newmeyer Corman Endowed Chair at VCU Massey, professor and chair of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics in the VCU School of Medicine and director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine.

With cancer the goal is to kill the cancer cells without killing the normal cells. That's really hard because cancer and regular cells are otherwise so similar in so many ways.

A microbubble approach is already in phase III clinical trials for heart disease. This approach could be used against many other types of cancer as well.

UTMD uses microscopic, gas-filled bubbles that provide great contrast against soft tissue when viewed using ultrasound equipment. The microbubbles can also be paired with complexes made to bind to specific areas of the body, allowing them to be targeted. In this study, a weakened adenovirus (a virus that is typically associated with respiratory infections) engineered to deliver the tumor-suppressing gene mda-7/IL-24 was joined to the microbubbles and delivered through the blood stream directly into the prostate. UTMD's ability to systematically target a disease site could revolutionize gene therapy.

A sufficiently complex gene therapy might some day execute a genetic program that will only give the order to kill a cell if the genetic program detects it is executing in a cancer cell.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 May 11 11:03 PM  Biotech Cancer

PacRim Jim said at May 13, 2011 12:54 AM:

In a decade or two, after we humans master common diseases, there will be a massive outpouring of anger, regret, and sadness by people who lose loved ones over that period.
For that reason, the Federal Government should be injecting all funds needed to understand, cure, and then prevent these killers. We're that close.
The lives we taxpayers save may be our own.

willis said at May 13, 2011 1:29 PM:

"A sufficiently complex gene therapy might some day execute..."

You should have put this sentence at the beginning of the article, rather than the end so as to spare me the time wasted reading it.

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