A gene therapy treatment for cancer offered in Beijing involves injecting a tumor suppression gene called p53 mixed with a modified virus into a cancer cell to suppress its growth. "The virus is sort of like a Trojan horse," says UCSF oncologist Alan Venook, MD, a cancer specialist who has studied p53. Venook warns that while the treatment may look promising in a Petri dish, it's more difficult to target a cancer cell in the body which may be hard to find and contain genetic abnormalities. Venook stressed that gene therapy is an important avenue of research to pursue, but added "that we clearly have a long way to go."
Venook is professor of clinical medicine and associate chief of medical oncology at UCSF.
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