“Gene Therapy for Metastatic Melanoma in Mice Produces Complete Remission”
Nov. 18, 2010
In 2010 over 68,000 patients will be diagnosed with melanoma; 9,000 of these will die from it. Which is why a research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is so exciting. At the Indiana University School of Medicine the lentivirus has been used to introduce an engineered anti-melanoma T cell receptor gene into the hematopoietic (cells that produce all immune system and blood cells) stem cells in mice. Once the T cell gene had modified the stem cells they were placed back into hosts and it was found that they made metastatic melanoma go into a total remission for the lifetime of the host. Christopher E. Touloukian, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery and immunology at the University is very hopeful at the outcome of this experiment, and what it could mean for future treatment of not only melanoma but many other types of cancer too. “To date, cancer immunotherapies have been hampered by limited and diminishing immune responses over time.” He says. This appears to not be the case with the transplantation of the gene modified hematopoietic cells. They are shown to completely eliminate the tumor, and the cancer is absent for the duration of that mouse’s life. According to Touloukian the researchers have found that, “the transplantation of gene-modified hematopoietic stem cells results in a new host immune system and the complete elimination of the tumor.” This study has led the way for a new clinical trial using humans that should take place in late 2011. This study will include a pilot phase that will have 12 patients, but it will be more focused on the safety of the treatment not its effectiveness. But the researchers have hope. As Touloukian explains, “We believe this type of translational model opens new doors for patients with melanoma and potentially other cancers by taking advantage of the potent regenerative capacity of hematopoietic stem.