Christiana Care Health System researchers have discovered a new way to use CRISPR gene-editing techniques to potentially reduce the need for chemotherapy in one form of cancer.
The new therapeutic method, developed by clinical oncologists and researchers at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, would be used to treat non-small cell lung carcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer in the country. The study was published in the journal Molecular Therapy Oncolytics late last year.
The researchers identified the NRF2 gene as making cancerous tumors more resistant to chemotherapy, and by introducing a CRISPR molecule to “knock out” that gene, cancer patients would require less chemo.
“We hear a lot of times from chemo patients, ‘the treatment is worse than the disease,’ and that’s something that sticks in our mind,” said Gene Editing Institute Director Dr. Eric Kmiec.
But Kmiec says it’s not quite clear yet how much less chemo will be required when using the CRISPR technique.
“It’ll either be a reduction of time or the amount,” he said. “We’re fairly confident that the amount can be reduced, which is really what causes the time, but right now that estimation can’t be made until we actually see what happens in humans.”
The new method has been successfully tested in human cells and in a mouse.
Kmiec says his team is in conversations with the FDA and he expects the new treatment may see its first clinical trial in the next 18 months.
He adds others are working to use similar techniques on other forms of cancer.
Lung cancer kills more people in the United States than any other form of cancer. In 2015, Delaware ranked 7th nationally with an age-adjusted rate of more than 71 lung cancer cases per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.