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Gene therapy kills breast cancer stem cells, boosts chemotherapy
Date:9/12/2011

HOUSTON -- Gene therapy delivered directly to a particularly stubborn type of breast cancer cell causes the cells to self-destruct, lowers chance of recurrence and helps increase the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy, researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center reported in the Sept. 13 edition of Cancer Cell.

In cellular and mouse studies, scientists found the gene mutation BikDD significantly reduced treatment-resistant breast-cancer initiating cells (BCICs), also known as breast cancer stem cells, by blocking the activity of three proteins in the Bcl-2 family. This genetic approach increased the benefits of lapatinib, one of the most common chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer.

"There are no effective methods to target BCICs, and they're urgently needed, especially for relapsed breast cancer patients," said senior author Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., vice president for basic research, professor and chair of MD Anderson's Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology. "This research suggests a potential therapeutic approach to breast cancer stem cells that will minimize recurrence and drug resistance."

Special delivery system targets cells

Gene therapy was deposited directly into breast cancer cells with an innovative delivery system called VISA, short for versatile expression vector, which was developed at MD Anderson. It includes a targeting agent, also called a promoter, two components that boost gene expression in the target tissue and a payload -- a Bik mutant gene called BikDD known to kill cancer cells. It's all packaged in a fatty ball called a liposome and delivered intravenously.

This system has been successfully applied in pancreatic, lung, liver and ovarian cancer preclinical models. MD Anderson clinical researchers are preparing a phase I clinical trial for pancreatic cancer.

Stem cells frequently stymie treatment

Breast cancer stem cells
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Contact: Scott Merville
smerville@comcast.net
713-792-0661
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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