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

, often resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, are a major obstacle for breast cancer treatment, Hung said. If any of these cells remain after treatment, a new tumor often forms. Although lapatinib, known commercially as Tykerb, can stabilize the level of these cells, no drugs are available to reduce them.

The Bcl-2 family of proteins especially the subtypes Bcl-2, Bcl-xL and Mcl-1 -- is essential for breast cancer tumor growth and treatment resistance. If too many of these three proteins are present, they can cause poor prognosis and resistance to chemotherapy drugs including lapatinib, as well as paclitaxel, doxorubicin and cisplatin.

This study shows that Bcl-2 proteins help breast cancer stem cells survive, causing resistance to treatment and likelihood of recurrence. However, using VISA to deliver BikDD can block the three key Bcl-2 proteins, eliminating the stem cells.

VISA-claudin4-BikDD cuts tumor burden

The researchers engineered a VISA that contained claudin4, a protein over-expressed in breast cancer, as a targeting agent to preferentially express BikDD in breast cancer cells. This process silenced the three Bcl-2 proteins and caused the cancer cells to self-destruct. Since the VISA focused the BikDD on cancer cells, normal cells were not affected.

Treating mice with the VISA-claudin4-BikDD therapy reduced tumor volume by 75 percent compared to control mice.

They also compared VISA-claudin4-BikDD therapy to BikDD packaged with a non-specific strong promoter from cytomegalovirus. Both versions reduced tumor burden and extended survival of mice, but tumor volume in mice treated with VISA-claudin4-BikDD was half that of the CMV-BikDD-treated mice. In a safety study using an unusually high dose, 60 percent of mice treated with CMV-BikDD survived after three days; all mice treated with VISA-Claudin4-BikDD survived for the duration of the 14-day safety profile study.

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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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