Editor's Note: The second article of the "Gene Therapy" series by Melody Hansford, a series about the benefits, risks, and everything else concerning gene therapy's role in modern medicine. Part I here

Genetic Therapy: An Unrecognized Solution

By: Melody Hansford

Human colorectal cancer cells treated with a topoisomerase inhibitor and an inhibitor of the protein kinase ATR (ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related), a drug combination under study as a cancer therapy. Cell nuclei are stained blue; the chromosomal protein histone gamma-H2AX marks DNA damage in red and foci of DNA replication in green.

Created by Yves Pommier, Rozenn Josse, 2014 on Unsplash

Genetic therapy and how it relates to curing the human body’s ailments have been extensively studied for the last thirty years. Although there are still many questions surrounding the technique, new answers have recently come to light regarding its application against various types of cancer.
 

Cancer is characterized as a devastating bodily malfunction that occurs when cells do not receive an indication from the nervous system to halt reproduction. When cells reproduce at an infinite level, a mass number of cells join together, and in due course, a tumor is formed. This greedy tumor will steal all the nutrition that it can from surrounding organs and cells.
 

One by one, the organs grow weaker and eventually die as the cancer continues to grow. Cancer is a ravenous monster, leaving nothing left in its wake. 
 

One monumental reason as to why a cure for cancer has not been found is that scientists have not yet discovered the full reason as to how the disease takes root in the first place.  
 

How a cell could come to malfunction is still a question that has been of yet shrouded in mystery. If even this question could meet its answer, breakthroughs in both genetic therapy and traditional cancer treatments would have come much sooner.
The war against cancer continues to rage.  Researchers as well as scientists are kept up thinking of every possible antidote to this monstrosity.  Genetic therapy has proved to be a curious contender for approval as a novel cancer treatment. Over 60% of genetic therapy trials being conducted worldwide are dedicated to treating cancer patients. In particular, advancements have been made to treat brain cancer.

 

Among the innovations of gene therapy which is showing dramatic effects is “suicide” gene therapy which has reversed the advance of Glioma brain cancer.  
 

Gliomas interest genetic researchers as the disease has been found to cause gene deletions as well as mutations in the human genome, and it is the most common form of brain cancer, which according to a Giulia Fulci, PhD and E Antonio Chiocca, MD, PhD, in their recent medical report, “affect ~15,000–18,000 individuals each year in the US, and, at present, average survival is ~ 14 months for patients harboring the most malignant gliomas and treated with the standard therapy of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.”

The “suicide” gene innovation has performed remarkably well in treating Gliomas. The term refers to “a therapeutic strategy, in which cell suicide inducing transgenes are introduced into cancer cells,”  as manufactured genes are introduced to these cancer cells, delivering instructions to destroy themselves.

Genetic researchers who have been studying this treatment as well as Gliomas have provided additional information, stating, “Some clinical trials used a viral vector for suicide gene transduction; however, it was found that viral vectors cannot cover the large invaded area of glioma cells. Interest in this therapy was recently revived because some types of stem cells possess a tumor-tropic migratory capacity, which can be used as cellular delivery vehicles.”

Photo by DesignUA via Bigstock

Genetic therapy gives physicians and researchers the ability to treat cancer at a molecular, genetic level.  The research into this mode of treatment is costly and will require both private investment and successful market application to continue.  If more funding is acquired, researchers will be able to learn more about the destructive nature of Gliomas, as well as other types of cancers.