BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
'Suicide gene' targets cancer cells
Cancer drug
Europe lags behind the US in making new cancer drugs available
Gene therapy which orders cancer cells to self destruct has been tested on a small number of patients in the US.

Doctors are hopeful that this will eventually open the way for prostate cancer treatments which do not carry the same risk of incontinence or impotence as conventional surgery.


Our approach would potentially achieve a higher rate of tumour control without damaging critical normal tissue and organs

Professor Jae Ho Kim
Gene therapy, in theory, works by finding a way to insert a new gene into the makeup of cancer cells - hopefully with disastrous results for the cells concerned.

The latest research, from a team in Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, led by Professor Jae Ho Kim, ups the stakes by aiming to insert two genes instead of just the one.

These, in common with many other gene therapies, are carried into the cell inside a modified common cold virus, which enters the cells in its normal fashion to deliver its theoretically deadly genetic payload.

The two genes chosen produce the secretion within the cell of a toxic substance, which in turn should trigger the cell to die.

Damaging surgery

Precisely-targeted therapies are keenly sought in prostate cancer, as the alternatives - radiotherapy and surgery, can be highly damaging to men.

This is because the prostate gland, which manufactures a component of semen, lies just under the bladder and close by an intricate network of nerves and blood vessels.

An operation, or radiation treatment, can damage these, and leave men incontinent, impotent, or both.

The Detroit team, revealing their results at the European Cancer Conference in Lisbon, have so far only carried out safety trials of their gene therapy on 12 patients whose disease has recurred despite treatment.

They found that all the patients were able to put up with the therapy with relatively few side effects, and hope to combine it with limited radiotherapy to drive out cancer, or stall its growth.

Professor Kim said: "Our approach would potentially achieve a higher rate of tumour control without damaging critical normal tissue and organs."

Second killer

Prostate cancer is already the second biggest cancer killer of men in the UK, and the number of diagnoses worldwide has soared since the introduction of PSA testing, particularly in the US.

Another expert said that he was confident that other drugs would be found to tackle prostate cancers - even those which had spread to other parts of the body.

Professor Schroder said: "These drugs will play an important role in the improvement of outcome among patients who have metastatic disease."

He revealed preliminary results from safety trials of an experimental drug for advanced, hormone resistant prostate cancer, Iressa, had been "very encouraging".

The European Cancer Conference - full coverage

Key stories

THE DISEASE
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

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes