The National Institutes of Health has granted researchers and Genetic Therapy Inc. approval to try to treat lung cancer patients by inserting genes into their tumors.
The experimental treatment, which is expected to begin on two dozen patients at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, is designed to discover whether inserting a synthetic gene into patients with a certain type of cancer can slow the growth of tumors.
The Gaithersburg biotechnology company is supplying the researchers with vectors, which act as a transportation system that will allow scientists to deliver a specific gene to the correct tumor cells in the lung.
In some patients, researchers will put a so-called "anti-sense" gene, which is a man-made mirror image of a strand of ribonucleic acid (RNA), into the vector. They then inject these vectors into the lung cancer cells. Researchers hope the anti-sense genes will bind to the cancer-causing genes and prevent the cells from dividing too rapidly.
The study, approved by the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of the NIH, still requires approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Genetic Therapy is involved in 15 separate tests involving gene therapy in humans. Gene therapy, which has only been used in experimental studies, is the insertion of a gene to cure or treat an illness. Genes contain the blueprint for human life.