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Picture of Health story

New therapy developed in Ireland offers hope for cancer patients worldwide

10 November 2009

Research highlighted in A Picture of Health 2009 offers hope of better treatments for gastrointestinal cancers.

Early trials of immunotherapy, a new cancer treatment developed by Professor Gerald O?Sullivan, University College Cork, look very promising, with as many as 60% of animals treated for cancerous tumours being cured in pre-clinical experiments. Professor O?Sullivan has now received permission to proceed with clinical trails on human cancer patients.

The gene therapy/immunotherapy approach is dual action: it combines gene therapy (inserting genes into cells in the patient?s body) with restoring the patient?s immune response to a tumour.   

'Our experiments showed that when the gene therapy made the tumour immune-reactive, the growth rate of the tumour slowed down. More importantly, secondary growths were also reduced. Cancer cells often have the ability to evade the immune system and therefore grow unchecked. Patients who have an immune response to their cancer do better than those who do not', notes Professor O?Sullivan, who envisages the gene therapy delivery system being administered in outpatient clinics by way of an injection.  

'In the case of internal cancers, such as gastrointestinal cancers, it could be delivered by endoscope. Gene therapy and immunotherapy are particularly suitable for treating this group of cancers, which are often resistant to standard chemotherapy.'

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