The finding is the latest in a series of studies by Pasqualini and Arap that are built around their discovery that the human vasculature system contains unique molecular addresses. Organs and specialized tissues also have specific "zip codes" on their blood vessels, as do tumor blood vessels. Knowing this, Pasqualini and Arap designed, constructed, evaluated, and validated the targeted AAVP system over the past several years. Amin Hajitou, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in the Arap/Pasqualini laboratory and first author of the Cell study says, "we were pleased by the strong effects of gene transfer in mouse models of common diseases such as breast and prostate cancer."
Their next step was to work closely with the team of M. D. Anderson researcher Juri Gelovani, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Experimental Diagnostic Imaging, a pioneer in development of molecular-genetic imaging tools.
"We could see by using positron emission tomography that the reporter and therapeutic genes were being expressed throughout the tumors in the animals," Gelovani says. "This is an example of the so-called "theragnostic" approach, a combination of the words therapeutic and diagnostic."
Next, the international collaborative research team plans to evaluate the safety and efficacy of other hybrid vectors in animal models. The ultimate goal is to adapt and optimize the AAVP-based targeting prototype for use in patients.