TNFerade: An Approach that Combines Gene Therapy with Radiation Therapy
Research done by Ralph Weichselbaum, MD, chairman of radiation and cellular oncology, has culminated in a novel combined therapy approach that harnesses the power of both gene therapy and radiation treatment to attack cancerous tissue. One study presented at an American Association of Clinical Oncology meeting showed that two patients who initially were told they could not have surgery to remove their pancreatic tumors were able to undergo surgery after this treatment.
This therapy is performed with the help of three different specialists: an interventional endoscopist, a radiation oncologist, and a surgical oncologist. There are four steps to this approach:
- A modified adenovirus is injected directly into the tumor via ultrasound-guided endoscopy.
- This adenovirus carries a gene that "infects" the cancerous cells and it’s linked with a radiation-sensitive promoter, akin to a switch.
- When the tumor is exposed to radiation, the radiation turns on the production of TNF-alpha, a protein that destroys the cancer cells.
- The TNF-alpha then kills tumor cells while also making the cancer more susceptible to radiation. In addition, it prevents the growth of new blood vessels to the tumor.
The University of Chicago Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology participated in phase I studies of this therapy and is the only Midwestern center where this treatment is being tested.