Recent developments in cancer treatments aim to overcome current problems with nonspecificity and consequent high toxicity and low efficiency in current cancer treatments is imminent. A lab at Stanford recently published a paper in the journal Gene Therapy that details a new approach to creating a more effective cancer therapy.

Many current cancer therapies are highly non-specific, hindering their efficacy and ability to provide patients with good quality of life. The Stanford lab created a novel cancer therapy that involves the fusion of two enzymes, herpes simplex virus-thymidine kinase (HSV1-TK) enzyme and Escherichia coli nitroreductase (NTR) enzyme, that selectively and specifically targets genes present in cancer cells. The fusion complex induces cell death by interfering and inhibiting DNA synthesis.

The fusion complex not only promises targeted cancer therapy, but also the potential to prevent cancer recurrence, another current shortcoming afflicting current cancer therapies. The fusion complex kills neighboring cancer cells in addition to the cancer cells that are targeted by the fusion complex, diminishing the opportunities that a cancer cell will be left to regenerate the tumor despite undergoing treatment.

Experiments done using breast cancer cell lines and mice were promising. The initial results revealed that the fusion complex was found to be more effective at inducing cancer cell death than using each enzyme alone.

Moreover, the fusion gene therapy also contains a novel imaging component that allows for monitoring of cell death. This component will hopefully assist in evaluating the efficacy of the therapy and elucidating the mechanism by which cancer cells die. Both pieces of information will assist the lab in optimizing their gene fusion therapy and help further other cancer therapies.