Despite aggressive treatment, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) – the most common and deadly of brain cancers – usually claims the lives of its victims within six to 12 months of diagnosis. Because GBM is so aggressive, the disease has been the target of a number of laboratory and clinical studies investigating the effectiveness of gene therapy to deliver novel therapies to the brain. In laboratory studies, this type of gene therapy has proved almost completely effective. But in clinical trials, it has had limited effectiveness.
To overcome these limitations, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center developed a large brain tumor model in laboratory rats that would more accurately predict the outcome of gene therapies in patients. In addition, they tested a genetically engineered virus to deliver two proteins directly to the brain. Their findings, reported in the August 15th issue of the journal Cancer Research, show that the majority of rats bearing large tumors were still alive six months after combined treatment with two proteins: RAdTK, a protein that kills cancer cells, and RAdFlt3L, which stimulates immune or dendritic cells in the brain.
"Our study shows that GBM tumors were completely eliminated in lab rats, likely because the two proteins increase the production of fully mature immune cells within the brain," said Maria Castro, Ph.D., co-director of the Gene Therapeutics Research Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the senior author of the study. "This suggests that combined RAdFlt3L and RAdTK gene therapy may ultimately provide an effective treatment for patients undergoing clinical trials with GBM."
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