Ruth Gjerset, PhD
Torrey Pines Institute For Molecular Studies
Novel Gene Delivery Strategy for Lung Cancer Treatment
p53, a tumor suppressor gene, is the most commonly mutated gene in all cancers, including lung cancers. Many attempts have been made using gene therapy to increase expression of functional p53, to suppress tumor growth. However, conventional delivery methods of gene therapy are rejected by the immune system. Dr. Gjerset is investigating whether a type of stem cell can be engineered to deliver therapeutic p53 gene therapy to advanced lung cancer to suppress the disease and avoid immune rejection.
Dr. Gjerset successfully engineered human mesenchymal stem cells to express the p53 adenovirus. However, while animal studies showed tumor regression, anti-tumor activity was only partially observed. Further studies demonstrated that the method of cell-delivered gene therapy is plausible, but may be limited by increasing efficiency of the gene therapy itself. Dr. Gjerset is addressing these issues by testing a permanent (immortalized) mesenchymal stem cell line that proliferates rapidly in cell culture. Dr. Gjerset and her team are currently pursuing an investigation of nontoxic small molecule therapeutics for lung cancer, and their possible synergy with other targeted therapies.