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'Seek-and-destroy' cancer gene therapy result hailed

21 April 10 11:53 GMT

Scientists believe they may have made a "breakthrough" in using gene therapy to treat cancer tumours.

Researchers at Strathclyde University in Glasgow have identified a technique for delivering genes to hard-to-reach tumours without harming healthy tissue.

During lab tests the "seek-and-destroy" therapy resulted in 90% of skin cancer tumours disappearing altogether.

The team is now investigating the technique's effectiveness at treating different forms of the disease.

At present, most gene therapies cannot be delivered to tumours without harming surrounding healthy tissue.

The Strathclyde-led team investigated ways of doing so with the use of the plasma protein transferrin, which carries iron through the blood.

Carrier proteins for transferrin are often found in large amounts in cancers.

During initial tests on skin cancer cells, it was found that the treatment led to a rapid and sustained regression of the tumours over one month, without any apparent signs of toxicity.

In 90% of cases, the tumours disappeared altogether.

Dr Christine Dufès, a lecturer at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, led the research.

"This therapeutic system gave very promising results on cancer treatment in the initial tests we have done," she said.

"To be able to make tumours not just shrink but vanish is a great breakthrough for us, particularly as there's currently no gene therapy of this kind on the market for intravenous administration.

"We have so far tested this seek-and-destroy system in laboratory settings on just one type of cancer - skin cancer- but are currently investigating its efficacy in different cancer models."

The research has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Controlled Release.

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