The pros and cons of using gene therapy for cancer are unfortunately not yet fully known. Initial clinical trials have shown that using gene therapy for cancer could be an effective treatment, possibly reducing or removing the negative effects associated with traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. However, the experimental nature of this treatment is the main negative aspect, as research is still being conducted. The possible side effects of using gene therapy for cancer are not yet known.
Cancer is a disease that occurs when cells divide when they are not supposed to. Cells divide within the body to replace other dying cells and keep the body functioning correctly. When cells divide abnormally, they can cause growths that affect other nearby organs or systems. These growths are called tumors. Cell division is controlled by genes, and any mutations in genes can make the development of cancer more likely.
Traditional medicines for the treatment of cancer are generally quite aggressive in nature. Generally, tumors are removed surgically, but other surrounding tissue can still be affected. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are then used to kill the remaining cancer cells, but these harsh treatments can also affect healthy cells. This is why side effects such as hair loss often occur from use of these treatments. Using gene therapy for cancer is an exciting idea because it could lessen or entirely remove the side effects associated with these other more aggressive treatments.
Gene therapy revolves around the idea that certain genes have the ability to suppress cancel cell growth or prevent cells from becoming cancerous. The P53 gene is the most famous of these, and is often referred to as the “genome guardian.” It is a naturally occurring gene that is known to kill cancer cells, stunt the growth of tumors and prevent new cancerous cells from forming. The idea behind gene therapy is that if these genes are either extracted or cloned and introduced to an infected area, it could kill or halt the growth of the affected cells, with little or no side effects. Gene therapy for cancer is also being tested involving genes that make the rest of the body more resistant to traditional cancer treatments and make tumors more susceptible to them.
The main cons of using gene therapy for cancer are not fully known. This is in itself the major negative aspect thus far. The treatment is still in the clinical trials stage, and although the results have so far been positive, the treatment is still experimental. This means that any side effects that do occur will be unexpected, and therefore possibly harder to control, understand and treat.