Gene therapy for cancer treatment: Past, present and future

Deanna Cross, James K. Burmester

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

299 Scopus citations


The broad field of gene therapy promises a number of innovative treatments that are likely to become important in preventing deaths from cancer. In this review, we discuss the history, highlights and future of three different gene therapy treatment approaches: immunotherapy, oncolytic virotherapy and gene transfer. Immunotherapy uses genetically modified cells and viral particles to stimulate the immune system to destroy cancer cells. Recent clinical trials of second and third generation vaccines have shown encouraging results with a wide range of cancers, including lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and malignant melanoma. Oncolytic virotherapy, which uses viral particles that replicate within the cancer cell to cause cell death, is an emerging treatment modality that shows great promise, particularly with metastatic cancers. Initial phase I trials for several vectors have generated excitement over the potential power of this technique. Gene transfer is a new treatment modality that introduces new genes into a cancerous cell or the surrounding tissue to cause cell death or slow the growth of the cancer. This treatment technique is very flexible, and a wide range of genes and vectors are being used in clinical trials with successful outcomes. As these therapies mature, they may be used alone or in combination with current treatments to help make cancer a manageable disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-227
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Medicine and Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Cancer gene therapy
  • Gene transfer
  • Immunotherapy
  • Oncolytic virotherapy


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