The results of six studies examining novel cancer-fighting approaches designed to target cancer cells while potentially leaving healthy cells intact were discussed at a press conference held at the 34th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. These next-generation treatments include early human trials of monoclonal antibodies, antiangiogenesis agents, cancer vaccines, antisense therapy, and gene therapy.
"Our investment in cancer research is clearly paying off with a host of exciting new approaches to treating the disease," said Lynn M. Schuchter, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, and moderator of the press conference. "Efforts over the last 15 years to understand the biology of cancer--the cellular, molecular and genetic basis for the disease--are now making their way from the laboratory to the bedside."
These novel therapies, which could soon be used with standard chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, may eventually emerge as primary treatments for cancer.
Primary New Biotherapeutic Approaches
Monoclonal antibodies are being developed to supplement the bodys immune system by recognizing and attacking specific proteins expressed by cancer cells. This therapy shows efficacy both as a single agent, and, more promisingly, when attached to a toxin or radioactive agent that serves as the weapon that actually kills the cancer cells.
Antiangiogenesis agents: Some of the first human trials of antiangiogenesis agents are demonstrating the potential to inhibit new blood vessel formation and, thus, starve tumors of the blood supply that they need to grow and spread.
Cancer vaccines are therapeutic, stimulating the bodys own immune system to recognize and attack already existing cancer cells.
Antisense therapy: By introducing strands of RNA (antisense) engineered to match and bind to the replicating DNA (sense) of cancer cells, antisense therapy attempts to block cancer cells from reproducing.
Gene therapy attempts to repair damaged DNA, add new DNA in an attempt to mend faulty genes, or introduce genes that make cancer cells sensitive to drug therapy.