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Columbia University

Gene Therapy

A new, exciting avenue of current research into cancer treatment is built upon the observation that abnormalities in certain genes, (chemical structures in the cell nucleus determining patterns of growth and function) are fundamentally related to the cancer process, and to resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy. One of these genes, p53, is known to be abnormal in the malignant cells of many patients with mesothelioma. In order to repair this defect, a non-replicating, noninfectious "designer" virus has been specially grown in the laboratory which is intended to enter the malignant cells, and reintroduce normal p53 genetic material. Cells carrying this normal p53 gene, although still malignant, can become more susceptible to conventional chemotherapy drugs. In a study being conducted at our Cancer Center, this noninfectious virus is injected directly into the abdominal or chest cavity of patients with mesothelioma who are then given chemotherapy.