The Methods and Effects of Gene Therapy Concerning Cancer
It has been proposed that gene therapy could yield to future treatment of cancers and other diseases and genetic disorders. Various literature sites have expressed that gene therapy is currently only used in research studies, and is still very young and unpredictable in clinical studies. Gene therapy has become more and more applicable to current and future medical studies concerning the treatment of cancer. The reviewed literature has shown that researchers and scientists firmly believe in the promise of gene therapy, and that it could indeed hold the cures for many diseases and the tools to prevent them. The reviewed literature has revealed that gene therapy has been very successful in many experimental trials with animals and models, but is not yet ready for human clinical trials because of the unpredictability of side effects and problems that have occurred in early studies. In the future, the literature has suggested the possible development of a cancer vaccine in addition to individualized chemotherapy and gene targeting in patients. It is the hopes of all that gene therapeutic methods will be used in the future to treat cancer and further its predictability and prevention.
Genes, or the specific order of nucleotides on a segment of DNA that encode the instructions for making proteins, are the basic operative units of heredity (Peault et al. 2007). Throughout the recent years of genomics through the Human Genome Project, researchers have identified all of the genes in the human genome. Located on the chromosomes, genes are the keys to revealing the genotypes and phenotypes of all living things. When they are mutated, inactive, or altered, the encoded proteins cannot continue with their conventional functions, and genetic disorders are often developed (Peault et al. 2007). Current research is underway to determine the functions of these genes. Once researchers and scientists understand the functions of the genes in the human genome, they can hope to understand the relationship between genes and disease. Through further research, researchers believe they will discover the key for correction, treatment, and even prevention of disease and disorder that mutations in the genome can cause (Peault et al. 2007). Gene therapy is an experimental technique that involves correcting defective or mutated genes to treat or prevent disease (Alto 2008). Through genetic engineering, Recombinant DNA Technology allows for researchers to alter the genetic structure of viruses to transform them into harmless plasmids for gene therapy. It is researchers’ hope that in the future, gene therapy may allow the treatment of cancer or another disorder by inserting a gene into a patient’s somatic cells without the use of surgery or drugs (Alto 2008). Although gene therapy is a fairly new technique, researchers have already developed several methods of correcting the defective genes. The most common approach involves inserting a normal, functional gene into an unspecified location within the genome to “overrule” a nonfunctional gene. In another, less common approach, a functional gene may be inserted to replace a nonfunctional gene via homologous recombination. A third method involves repairing an abnormal or nonfunctional gene by way of selective reverse mutation, ultimately returning the gene to its expected function. A fourth and final method of gene therapy involves altering a specific gene by either activating, or deactivating it (Peault et al. 2007). In a vast majority of studies regarding gene therapy, a functional gene is inserted into a genome to replace a nonfunctional, or abnormal gene that causes disease. A vector, or carrier molecule, is used to introduce the new, therapeutic gene into the patient’s genome. Typically, the vector used most often is a genetically altered virus that can sustain human DNA. Common gene...
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