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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2003 (2003), Issue 1, Pages 13-24
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/S1110724303209025
Perspective

Gene Therapy for Pediatric Cancer: State of the Art and Future Perspectives

Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, Department of Pediatrics-Hematology/Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston 77030, TX, USA

Received 16 July 2002; Accepted 19 July 2002

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

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.