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Cancer gene therapy — current status in the clinics

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By now, we have seen the dawn of the clinical era of cancer gene therapy. An enormous amount of biological knowledge and experimental data were gathered during a short period of pre-clinical years, and numerous applications proceeded into human trials. The first clinical years have taught us hard lessons, and often forced us to pull back and choose new and alternative courses. However, they have also given sufficient promise that cancer gene therapy will establish its foothold in clinical cancer management in the future. More importantly, pioneering trials have helped us to put things into the right perspective; clinical advance will likely emerge from the combined use of gene therapy with traditional therapies. It also appears that no cancer gene therapy approach can be applied universally, but rather we will see treatments that show effectiveness in only a particular type of tumor. For the last but not the least — while researchers are likely to increase their efforts to find more efficient solutions — scientific rigor and study design should not be jeopardised by potential pressures from investors and drug companies. In this review, we summarize highlights in i) the current approaches and genetic treatment modalities that are available based on pre-clinical studies, and ii) the status of cancer gene therapy in current clinical oncology, with special reference to those cancers where gene therapy has proceeded to human trials.


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