Author | Stephen G. Swisher, MD


p53 Tumor Suppressor Gene Therapy for Cancer

October 01, 1999

Gene therapy has the potential to provide cancer treatments based on novel mechanisms of action with potentially low toxicities. This therapy may provide more effective control of locoregional recurrence in diseases like non–small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as well as systemic control of micrometastases. Despite current limitations, retroviral and adenoviral vectors can, in certain circumstances, provide an effective means of delivering therapeutic genes to tumor cells. Although multiple genes are involved in carcinogenesis, mutations of the p53 gene are the most frequent abnormality identified in human tumors. Preclinical studies both in vitro and in vivo have shown that restoring p53 function can induce apoptosis in cancer cells. High levels of p53 expression and DNA-damaging agents like cisplatin (Platinol) and ionizing radiation work synergistically to induce apoptosis in cancer cells. Phase I clinical trials now show that p53 gene replacement therapy using both retroviral and adenoviral vectors is feasible and safe. In addition, p53 gene replacement therapy induces tumor regression in patients with advanced NSCLC and in those with recurrent head and neck cancer. This article describes various gene therapy strategies under investigation, reviews preclinical data that provide a rationale for the gene replacement approach, and discusses the clinical trial data available to date. [ ONCOLOGY 13(Suppl 5):148-154, 1999]