An effective gene therapy cure for cancer would be a major step forward in medical technology. The discovery of a gene called SARI is the cause of some optimism as it suppresses a key protein that is over expressed in most cancers.
The development of a gene therapy cure for cancer was given a boost with the discovery of the anti-tumor gene SARI. Researchers and scientists, from Virginia Commonwealth University, led by Dr. Paul B. Fisher, Director of the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, were able to identify and isolate this gene due to the application of new and powerful analytical techniques not previously used.
SARI was found to be activated by an immune system modulator (interferon). The gene was able to effectively inhibit the growth of tumor cells. The mechanisms are not fully clear yet but it seems that SARI interferes with the mechanisms by which cell division occurs. As many cancerous cells proliferate in this way SARI could be used to treat a multitude of cancers.
The Study Implications
Researchers from this study employed a traditional gene therapy approach. They were able to deliver the new anti-tumor gene to cancer cells using a virus that contained the SARI gene. After the delivery, they saw that 90% of all cancer cells tested, responded positively to the SARI gene products (that is cancer cells were destroyed). This fact could lead to a new effective anti-cancer strategy for many types of tumors.
According to the study, researchers have discovered a new manner by which interferon can block tumor activity. Interferon is currently used in the treatment of tumors such as melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma, and renal carcinoma, either alone or in combination with other chemotherapy agents.
The isolation and identification of the new anti-tumor SARI gene provides the opportunity to develop a new strategy to selectively kill cancer cells.
What Needs to be Done?
As with many of the gene therapies being explored today certain problems exist that need to be addressed in order for them to be deployed effectively. A key issue, and one that is going to be further explored by the scientists involved in this study is how to effectively target the gene so that it goes exactly where it is needed.
Fisher et al (2008). Cloning and characterization of SARI (suppressor of AP-1, regulated by IFN) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print December 12, 2008, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807975106