Viagene Inc. scientists reported their ongoing, unpublishedgene therapy results in animal models of cancer at this week'sFirst International Conference on Gene Therapy of Cancer,sponsored by the University of California, San Diego.

In several tumor model systems -- colon cancer, lung cancerand melanoma -- the researchers found that they can "primethe immune system to mount potent responses against theparent tumor." In essence, Viagene researchers have usedretroviral vector mediated gene transfer to introduce the genesfor the lymphokines gamma interferon and interleukin-2 intomurine tumor cell lines. When mice were injected -- orvaccinated -- with irradiated versions of these modified tumorcells, the animals were protected from subsequent challengewith the unmodified tumor.

Viagene scientists also found that they could use gene transferto "produce directly in the animal's body certain cancer-associated antigens.

"Direct vaccination with retroviral vectors containing genesequences for cancer-associated viral and human proteinsresulted in significant protection of animals against challengewith viable tumor cells," the San Diego company said.

The introduced genes were for a human papillomavirusprotein (E7) and human breast cancer polymorphic epithelialmucin.

Viagene expects to begin human clinical trials with one of theseapproaches next year. Its gene transfer therapy protocol fortreating HIV infection has been approved by FDA, and theclinical trial "is being initiated currently," Viagene said.

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