Gene therapy for brain cancer shows promising results

Gene therapy for brain cancer shows promising results

Gene therapy for a highly aggressive brain cancer has shown promising results, with cell-killing drugs and immune stimulation.

This is the first phase in human trials, and researchers in the Department of Neurosurgery and Rogel Cancer Center at the University of Michigan, led by Pedro Lowenstein and Maria Castro, have developed and studied adenoviral gene therapies in their laboratory. Given the poor prognosis of gliomas and limited response to treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, the team looked to use the Flt3L protein to recruit immune cells that are normally absent in the brain. These immune cells are required to initiate a more effective immune response to cancer.

The study focused on two types of genetic therapies in high-grade gliomas. The first was a combination of the HSV-1-TK protein and Valtrex, a drug used to treat viral infections such as cold sores and chicken pox.

HSV-1-TK converts Valtrex into a cytotoxic compound that kills actively dividing cancer cells. The second is Flt3L, a protein that recruits essential immune cells in the brain.

When used together, these therapies have shown dramatic early results, including improved survival.

Of the 18 patients enrolled in the trial, six had survived for more than two years, three had been alive for more than three years, and one patient, who was still alive at the time of writing, had survived for up to five years.

With current standards of care, the average life expectancy for this type of tumor is just over 14 months.

Furthermore, the study found that this treatment was not toxic to patients, indicating that the highest dose used in this trial could be used in future trials.

Although adenoviral gene therapy vectors were supposed to be active for up to a month, work by three researchers (Maria Luisa Varela, Mohamed Faisal Syed, and Molly West) discovered that activity from an adenoviral vector expressing HSV1 -TK has been active for up to 17 months.

This discovery changes the outlook for adenovirus gene therapy in the brain and extends the potential time during which the combination of HSV1-TK and Valtrex can be harnessed to combat tumor recurrence.

“This arose from a theoretical idea based on evolutionary hypotheses and was first tested in experimental models of the disease,” said Lowenstein, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Michigan.

“Finally, after many years, we are pleased to report the results of testing this approach in human patients, obtaining results that will lead to better treatments for this group of brain tumor patients,” Castro said. 

The study was published in The Lancet Oncology.

Space : Arianespace announces when Vega-C rocket launches will resume

Arianespace announced the date on which it will resume launching Vega-C rockets into space, which it had suspended launching since last year.

And a statement issued by the company stated: “Next October, we will launch a Vega-C rocket into space, carrying several satellites on board, so that this process will be the first launch of these rockets since the accident that occurred at the Kourou space base in October last year.” .

The statement added: “According to the plans, the next launch of the Vega-C rocket will take place from the Korovi base in French Guiana, on October 4, 2023, at 22:23 local time (October 5, 04:36 Moscow time)”.

According to the available information, the rocket, which will be launched in October, will carry on board the THEOS-2 satellite dedicated to Earth exploration, which was developed by Airbus Defense and Space Company in Thailand. It will also carry the FORMOSAT-7R / TRITON satellite, which was developed by the Taiwanese Space Agency, into Earth orbits.

The European Space Agency and Arianespace had previously decided to stop launching the Vega-C rockets after the problem that occurred in December last year when trying to launch one of these rockets into space, as the rocket was supposed to carry two satellites, Pleiades Neo 5, to Earth’s orbits. And the Pleiades Neo 6, intended for remote sensing of the Earth, but the operation failed due to a malfunction that affected its engines two minutes and 27 seconds after its launch.