Gene therapy works by using a fresh set of DNA from healthy cells to trigger a certain response from cancer-infected cells. Basically, the doctors will insert those certain genes using a carrier into the areas infected by mesothelioma cells. They will be activated to begin introducing the genetic material locally. This process will lead to killing cancer cells naturally. However, this treatment is still considered experimental and only available for a few patients with clinical trials.
What are the types of gene therapy?
One of the gene therapy types is called gene transfer. In this method, the healthy cell’s DNA is used to kill the mesothelioma cells or to slow down their growth. Once the gene is inside the tumor, the gene will convert a non-toxic drug into some kind of drug that can kill cancer. These cancer-killing drugs are designed to recognize the tumor only, so it won’t be harmful to the other healthy cells. Therefore, the patient with mesothelioma will receive no side effects after getting this treatment.
Another type of gene therapy is oncolytic virotherapy. In this method, the mesothelioma cells will be broken down using a specific virus such as measles, herpes simplex virus, west nile, or hepatitis B. The oncolytic virotherapy method is usually combined with other therapy such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy to increase the chance of eliminating cancer. However, several mild side effects may occur to the patients, for example, fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle aches, or pain at the injection site.
How does it work?
Gene therapy works by introducing certain genes into cancer-infected organs, which in exchange to kill those cancer cells. For patients diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, studies shown that the anti-tumor effect is created by using gene therapy targeting the defective p53 gene. This gene codes a protein that regulates normal cell function. Without normally functioning p53 gene, the cancer cells become immune to death, or to put it simply; they become immortal. One study uses adenovirus vector to revive the p53 gene and succeed in bringing some of those cancer cells to death, which in exchange reduces the mass of the tumor. This kind of treatment could potentially be used to treat cancer-related diseases other than pleural mesothelioma since the defect in the p53 gene also found in many cancers. The result of the previous study was achieved on patients that not react well to other treatment forms, such as elderly patients and patients with pleural effusions.
Side Effects and Risks
The side effects could be different between one patient to another, depending on the type of gene therapy that is used. The side effects might include chills, fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches, nausea, pain at the injection site, and fatigue. In general, the side effects resulting from gene therapy are generally mild, and in many cases, not long-lasting. Another side effect might yet to be observed by researchers, but over time, these risks would be known eventually. This kind of therapy might be a favorable option for mesothelioma patients who not responded well to standard treatment. Patients must consult their doctor first before considering taking this treatment.