While modern treatments have led to a dramatic improvement in survival for pediatric malignancy, toxicities are high and a significant proportion of patients remain resistant. Gene transfer offers the prospect of highly specific therapies for childhood cancer. "Corrective" genes may be transferred to overcome the genetic abnormalities present in the precancerous cell. Alternatively, genes can be introduced to render the malignant cell sensitive to therapeutic drugs. The tumor can also be attacked by decreasing its blood supply with genes that inhibit vascular growth. Another possible approach is to modify normal tissues with genes that make them more resistant to conventional drugs and/or radiation, thereby increasing the therapeutic index. Finally, it may be possible to attack the tumor indirectly by using genes that modify the behavior of the immune system, either by making the tumor more immunogenic, or by rendering host effector cells more efficient. Several gene therapy applications have already been reported for pediatric cancer patients in preliminary Phase 1 studies. Although no major clinical success has yet been achieved, improvements in gene delivery technologies and a better understanding of mechanisms of tumor progression and immune escape have opened new perspectives for the cure of pediatric cancer by combining gene therapy with standard therapeutic available treatments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis