Gene therapy could improve breast reconstruction after cancer treatment
3D print of HIV. The virus surface (yellow) is covered with proteins (purple) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. Source: Flickr. Licence: CC BY 2.0.
Our scientists showed that genetically reprogramming healthy cells could protect these cells from the harmful side-effects of radiotherapy after treatment for breast cancer.
In the future, this process could protect healthy tissue transplanted during cancer surgery – improving outcomes for breast reconstruction surgery in women with breast cancer by avoiding scarring or shrinkage of the subcutaneous tissues and skin.
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, used a virus to deliver extra copies of two different genes to rats treated with radiotherapy. The genes play roles in limiting stress from harmful particles cellular stress and scarring responses to radiotherapy.
After radiotherapy, the healthy tissues that had been treated with this gene combination shrank by just 15 per cent, compared with 70 per cent in those that had not received the treatment.
Study leader Professor Kevin Harrington said:
“Some women who need radiotherapy after a mastectomy have to wait for six months before they can have breast reconstruction surgery, to allow time for side-effects to settle. This delay can have negative effects on well-being and body image.
“We hope this new viral gene therapy could protect healthy tissue transplanted during cancer surgery,bringing forward the subsequent operation to allowing immediate reconstruction of the breast at the time of removal of the cancer.”
The research, published in Science Translational Medicine
, was largely funded by the Wellcome Trust