BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Gene therapy for prostate cancer
dna
The gene therapy could unlock cancer resistance
The UK's first clinical trial of gene therapy for one of the most common cancers is being launched in Birmingham.

Many prostate cancers are highly resistant to conventional treatments, and scientists are hoping to find out whether they can be genetically modified to make them more vulnerable.

Now the team needs 30 men with the disease to test whether their prospective treatment is safe to use.


We're optimistic that gene therapy will fulfil its enormous potential by saving the lives of many patients

Dr Nick James, CRC
It is being run from the Cancer Rearch Campaign-funded cancer research centre at the University of Birmingham.

Dr Nick James, who is coordinating it, said: "We're keen that men with early-stage prostate cancer should put themselves forward for the trial, which could open up an entirely fresh approach to treating the disease.

"If the research is successful, it should help us tackle some of the most stubborn, radiotherapy-resistant forms of the disease.

"We're optimistic that gene therapy will fulfil its enormous potential by saving the lives of many patients."

The prostate is a small gland lying close to the bladder which produces some of the ingredients of semen.

Changing the cells

Many older men suffer benign enlargement of the gland, which then occasionally develops into a malignant condition.

Surgery to remove glands suspected of being cancerous is hazardous - and can leave men either impotent or incontinent - or both.

Gene therapy in this case involves changing the genetic structure of the cancer cells themselves.

They are marked with a "trigger" which converts drugs into toxic forms, sparing healthy tissue but killing tumour cells.


There's no doubt that gene therapy has the potential to become one of the most exciting technologies available to cancer specialists

Professor Gordon McVie, CRC
The first stage of the trial will test only if the trigger can be inserted safely through genetic engineering, and it is likely to be some years before a fully-fledged treatment emerges.

However, Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the CRC, said: "There's no doubt that gene therapy has the potential to become one of the most exciting technologies available to cancer specialists.

"For the first time in the UK, this trial will determine whether it can be made to work for prostate cancer in the here and now."

As yet, gene therapy for cancer has great potential, but this is almost entirely unrealised.

Prostate cancer, says the CRC, is likely to become the most common in the developed world by the year 2020.

This is because the number of lung cancers will continue to fall as smoking rates decline.

In addition, more prostate cancers than ever are being detected by doctors.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

02 Mar 00 | Health
1m for prostate cancer research
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories