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Cancer Glossary Cancer Diet Guide Support Groups

Gene Therapy for Cancer

For patients who have cancer and are looking for alternatives to surgery, or treatments that can be used in addition to surgery, gene therapy can be a good option for some. Gene therapy is used for the treatment of different diseases in the body, including cancer, and involves replacing defective genes with normal genes. These new genes are then transferred into the cells via proteins or viruses. Genes are well-known as the basic units of heredity and are made from DNA. Any treatment that is designed to modify or change a gene’s function or structure is considered gene therapy. Because cancer is considered a disease of various genetic changes, gene therapy is very promising and has a lot of potential for both cancer treatment and prevention.  

Gene therapy is still relatively new and is still being studied, and new information is being discovered about gene therapy all the time. Because gene therapy research is still in the early stages, the information that we have regarding this type of therapy is limited, and it is very important to talk to your doctor and find out if gene therapy is a viable option for you. Some gene therapy test results have shown promise when used in a small study against a certain type of leukemia, but it will likely be years before this form of gene therapy will be used as a standard treatment for cancer.  

Preparation for Gene Therapy: Because gene therapy is not yet a standard procedure, the only way to receive it is likely as part of a study. Before participating in any gene therapy study, make sure that you consult with your doctor about the possibility and then carefully follow your doctor’s instructions regarding preparation for gene therapy procedures.  

Gene Therapy Procedure: Because gene therapy is still being studied, there is little published information regarding how the procedure actually works or how it is administered. Eventually, if the current testing period goes well, gene therapy may become a standard treatment for various types of cancer. For now, little is known about gene therapy procedures, but you can consult with your doctor if you would like to have more information regarding this exciting new cancer treatment possibility.  

Types or Techniques Used: The techniques that will be used for gene therapy are not yet finalized, but in clinical trials, patients were treated with genetically engineered T cells (white blood cells). The patients’ own T cells were then removed and were modified through the use of a simple virus that was not harmful and gave the cells new genes so that they could target B cells within the body. After they were modified, the T cells were then injected back into the patients’ bodies, where they started to kill B cells and CLL tumor cells. In the study group, each genetically modified T cell killed thousands of tumor cells on average, leading to the destruction of no less than 2 pounds of tumor in every single test patient. These incredible results surprised the doctors who were conducting the tests and it is likely that the techniques used in the study will eventually be used to treat cancer patients and that some form of gene therapy will likely become a standard treatment for cancer in the future.  

Recovery Time: Because the study of gene therapy is still so new, it is yet unknown what the recovery time will be for this treatment in the future. If you are interested in participating in a gene therapy study, be sure to talk with your doctor about the recovery time you should expect after each treatment.  

Gene Therapy Side Effects: If you are participating in a gene therapy study or are considering doing so, talk to your doctor regarding some of the possible side effects and risks before you commit. It is important that you decide for yourself if participating in a gene therapy study will be worth the risks.