Cancer Treatment With Gene Therapy
Gene therapy has been progressing over the past half-century and has led to many discoveries pertaining to the treatment of cancer. Normal body cells can either become cancerous by losing or gaining a function. To treat cancer, scientists can either replace damaged genes (such as a damaged tumor suppressing gene) in the malignant cells or stop the cells from overexpressing genes (such as oncogenes, or genes that have been altered and can cause the development of cancer in normal body tissue) (Culver, 97). Gene therapy has many benefits over other cancer treatment methods.
“ Gene therapy is the insertion of a functioning gene into the cells of a patient to correct an inborn error of metabolism (i.e. genetic abnormality or birth defect) to provide new function in a cell (e.g. insertion of an immunostimulatory gene into cancer cells to vaccinate a patient against their own cancer) (Culver, xvi). There are currently two types of gene therapy. Somatic gene therapy, which is currently the only accepted method of gene therapy for use in humans, is the changing of all the cells of the body except for the reproductive cells. This type of gene therapy can only fix a genetic disorder for one generation. Germ-line gene therapy, which is not currently accepted for use in humans, is the altering of the reproductive cells. This is the type of gene therapy that can cure a genetic disorder for more than one generation (Culver, xvi). There are a few methods of altering cells in gene therapy. The first method is in vivo. The in vivo method is where the cells are altered inside of the body. For the in vivo method to work accurately, there needs to be a certain way for the genes to reach the target cells (a vector using a virus) (Culver, 163). The second method is ex vivo. In this method, the diseased cells are removed from the body and genetically altered outside of the body (Culver, 162). Finally, in vitro is the method where the diseased cells are removed from the body and are placed in a controlled setting outside of the body (Culver, 163). Gene therapy is a relatively new field but has made great advancement in the past 50 years including developing methods to help cure cancer. Scientists have developed methods to cure cancer that have many benefits traditional cancer treatments do not offer.
Scientists have made many useful discoveries in the field of gene therapy, many of which have led to the developing methods of curing cancer with gene therapy. The first act in this area of genetics happened in 1944 when James Watson and Sir Francis Crick showed DNA to be the genetic material that passes from one generation to the next. Only nine years later, scientists found out how DNA is designed. In eight more years, the quest to understand the genetic code started. It ended in 1967. In 1973, scientists uncovered the processes by which to make different combinations of genes in live cells so that they could manipulate the...