Altered HIV Attacks Mice Tumors

“Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have tweaked HIV to create a gene therapy that attacks cancer tumors in mice.

…The UCLA AIDS Institute scientists genetically altered HIV and folded it into an envelope made of another virus called sindbis, which typically infects insects and birds. That turned the altered HIV into a missile that hunted down metastasized melanoma cells in the lungs of living mice.

…The researchers programmed the altered virus package to attack a protein on the cancer cell surface called p-glycoprotein, which causes problems in cancer patients by shuttling cancer drugs away from the cell. In other words, p-glycoprotein causes resistance to cancer medication. Scientists could customize the system to target any protein on the surface of a cell, Chen said. He and his colleagues have seen success with about a dozen different molecules, including brain and other blood cells, he said.

More incremental work, with the goal of increasing the precision of the treatment and reducing the chance of side effects, is necessary before this type of gene therapy can be tested in humans, Chen said. In a premature human trial in 1999, 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died during a gene therapy clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania, which led to an FDA investigation and closure of the Penn gene therapy program. ” (Wired)