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Gene Therapy And Its Effect On Cancer

3602 words - 14 pages

Gene Therapy and Its Effect on Cancer

The era of scientific advancement in the twentieth century has encouraged several scientific fields to merge into a new, futuristic science called Biotechnology. One idea behind Biotechnical science is taking advantage of molecular biology. At the forefront of this advancement is gene therapy which " attempts to treat disease at its origin on the molecular level"(Kreeger,1996). "Essentially, this therapy deliberately introduces genes into the human cells to compensate for aberrant genes that cause genetic disease" (Beese, 1996). This therapy can be administered in two ways. One is germ-line therapy which not only treats the cells of that individual but these treated cells could be passed onto the individual's offspring. This type is the focus of much of the opposition of gene therapy itself because trials take many years and few results have proved conclusively safe for those treated and their children. The other type of therapy less opposed is the somatic cell approach that only affects the cells of the individual being treated. Cancer has recently been the target for several different types of somatic cell therapy and along with them come a set of controversial aspects that question its role in society.

Cancer is an ever- increasing disease that affects all ages, sex and race. It has no preference for where it resides as it can be found in several organs and on several different tissues. However, one special similarity appears whether the cancer is found on the breast or in the colon; it is an over growth of cells in the area infected. The cancer seem to arise from abnormalities in genes involved in growth and differentiation of cells. Certainly, environmental factors can indeed contribute to cancer, but learning the actual number of genes in the body that are involved in cell growth can help in deciphering whether environment, genetics or the combination of the two is/are the culprit. Either way, genes do play a role in cancer and viable ways to effect the problem genes and stop cellular growth are needed.

Effective approaches to treat cancer include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery is very effective in the early stages of the disease but there is a risk that all of the infected cells weren't removed or the cancer may come back. Radiation can also be very effective but the side affects can be very harsh for the patient. Along with this, normal cells of the body have the potential to be altered by the treatment process and cause an entirely new set of difficulties. Though chemotherapy has been successful in many cases, there is a fear that like bacteria, the cancer cells can become resistant to these drugs (National Medical Center,1996). It seems clear that somatic cell gene therapy could be a viable treatment for those people who have had little success from the other treatments or possibly prevent the cancer from returning.

One type of somatic cell therapy is taking...

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