Gene therapy begins on cancer patient.
Doctors at a Tokyo hospital initiated Japan's first gene therapy against cancer Thursday, injecting cells containing immunity-enhancing genes into a 60-year-old kidney cancer patient.
The treatment, at the University of Tokyo Research Hospital, is expected to be repeated every other week five more times.
The gene therapy process began Oct. 5 when a research group led by assistant professor Kenzaburo Tani removed the man's right kidney and then introduced immunity-enhancing GM-CSF genes into cancer cells taken from the diseased kidney.
GM-CSF genes promote the production of lymphocytes and doctors hope they would either prevent a recurrence of cancer or slow the spread of the disease.
After the GM-CSF genes were introduced in the cells, the cancer cells were irradiated to ensure their safe injection into the patient.
The current therapy, which is characterized as clinical testing, primarily aims to determine the safety of using the altered cells.
Doctors also hope the GM-CSF genes in the cells will boost the patient's immune system and lymphocytes will attack any cancer cells remaining in his body.
The Tani team decided to undertake gene therapy as the patient's cancer had spread and conventional radiation and chemotherapy treatments were unlikely to succeed.
Gene therapy was first conducted in Japan in 1995 at Hokkaido University on a boy suffering from adenosine deaminase deficiency.
He has responded well to the treatment.