Mt. Sinai School of Medicine has begun [Phase I human immunology trials](http://www.cancer.gov/search/ViewClinicalTrials.aspx?cdrid=335463&version=Patient&protocolsearchid=1942444) of a special gene designed to enter cancer cells and make them visible to the human immune system. Patients with liver metastases from colorectal cancer are sought for the trial.
In laboratory animal studies, the treatment extended life for all animals with breast or colorectal cancers and completely destroyed all tumors in 20 to 30 percent of them.
During tumor immunization researchers are able to insert a gene into the cancer cell that tells the cell to produce Interleukin-12, a protein that is a powerful signal to particular white cells in the body’s immune system to destroy the cancer cell. Ordinarily, cancer cells are ignored by the immune system and are able to continue to grow unchecked.
In a [news release](http://fusion.mssm.edu/media/content.cfm?storynum=266) from Mt. Sinai,Savio Woo, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of the Department of Gene and Cell Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explained,
“Cancer cells are able to grow unimpeded by the body’s defenses because they look very similar to healthy cells, with only very subtle differences that pass under the radar screen of the body’s immune cells. We use gene transfer technology to insert an immune enhancing gene into the cancer cells that makes them visible to the body’s natural immune defenses.”
Max W. Sung, M.D is leading the clinical trial. He explains the procedure that will be used to inject the gene into a liver tumor,
“The procedure does not require surgery and is done with just local anesthesia to the skin, Using one to three needles, the disarmed virus harboring the IL12 gene is injected through the skin into a metastatic tumor in the liver. We perform an ultrasound exam at the same time to track the needles so that we can deliver the virus to the correct location. The entire procedure can be completed within half an hour.”
For more information on the clinical trial patients or their doctors should contact Vivian Mitropoulou at (212) 241-6046.
An article in [Science Daily](http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051107083122.htm) has more information about immunology research at Mt. Sinai.