VCU Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine Researchers Publish Findings of a New Chemoprevention Gene Therapy That Kills Pancreatic Cancer Cells
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008
Researchers at the Virginia
Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Institute of Molecular
Medicine have published findings that implicate a new chemoprevention gene
therapy (CGT) for preventing and treating pancreatic cancer, one of the most
lethal and treatment-resistant forms of cancer.
In the July issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, the
researchers showed that combining a dietary agent with a gene-delivered
cytokine effectively eliminates human pancreatic cancer cells in mice
displaying sensitivity to these highly aggressive and lethal cancer cells.
Cytokines are a category of proteins that are secreted
into the circulation and can affect cancer cells at distant sites in the body,
including metatases. The cytokine used in this study was melanoma
differentiation associated gene-7/interleukin-24, known as mda-7/IL-24.
The dietary agent, perillyl
alcohol (POH), was combined with mda-7/IL-24,
which is already used in other cancer treatments. POH is found in a variety of
plants, including citrus plants, and has been well-tolerated by patients who
have received it in clinical studies.
The results indicated that
the CGT approach not only prevented pancreatic cancer growth and progression,
but it also effectively killed established tumors, thereby displaying profound
chemopreventive and therapeutic activity.
Paul B. Fisher, Ph.D., was
principal investigator of the study, which was supported by the National
Institutes of Health and the Samuel Waxman Cancer Foundation. Fisher, who
recently joined VCU from Columbia University, is professor and interim chair of VCU's department of human and molecular
genetics; holds the Thelma Newmeyer Corman chair in cancer research at Massey;
and is director of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine.
"Our hypothesis was that
certain non-toxic dietary agents that had the ability to promote reactive
oxygen species (ROS) would break down pancreatic cancer cell resistance to
therapy following administration of mda-7/IL-24
and be safe for human use," said Fisher. "We are very excited at the prospect
of this chemoprevention gene therapy as a means of both preventing and treating
pancreatic cancer, and it has significant potential to move rapidly into human
Pancreatic cancer has a
five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent, and currently there is no
effective chemotherapy or radiation therapy for it. About 37,000 new cases are
diagnosed in the United States each year.
To read an abstract of the
study, visit http://mct.aacrjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/7/7/2042.
About VCU and VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.
About the VCU Massey Cancer Center
VCU Massey Cancer Center is one of only 68 National Cancer Institute-designated institutions in the country that leads and shapes America’s cancer research efforts. Working with all kinds of cancers, Massey conducts basic, translational and clinical cancer research, provides state-of-the-art treatments and clinical trials, and promotes cancer prevention and education. Since 1974, Massey has served as an internationally recognized center of excellence. It offers the most cancer clinical trials in Virginia and serves patients at 10 locations. Its 1,000-plus researchers, clinicians and staff members are dedicated to improving the quality of human life by developing and delivering effective means to prevent, control and ultimately cure cancer. Visit Massey online at www.massey.vcu.edu or call 877-4-MASSEY for more information.