Review article: gene therapy, recent developments and future prospects in gastrointestinal oncology


  • This uncommissioned review article was subject to full peer-review.

Dr Y. Touchefeu, Section of Cell and Molecular Biology, Targeted Therapy Laboratory, The Institute of Cancer Research, 237 Fulham Road, London SW3 6JB, UK. E-mail:


Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2010; 32: 953–968


Background  Gene therapy consists of the introduction of genetic material into cells for a therapeutic purpose. A wide range of gene therapy vectors have been developed and used for applications in gastrointestinal oncology.

Aim  To review recent developments and published clinical trials concerning the application of gene therapy in the treatment of liver, colon and pancreatic cancers.

Methods  Search of the literature published in English using the PubMed database.

Results  A large variety of therapeutic genes are under investigation, such as tumour suppressor, suicide, antiangiogenesis, inflammatory cytokine and micro-RNA genes. Recent progress concerns new vectors, such as oncolytic viruses, and the synergy between viral gene therapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. As evidence of these basic developments, recently published phase I and II clinical trials, using both single agents and combination strategies, in adjuvant or advanced disease settings, have shown encouraging results and good safety records.

Conclusions  Cancer gene therapy is not yet indicated in clinical practice. However, basic and clinical advances have been reported and gene therapy is a promising, new therapeutic approach for the treatment of gastrointestinal tumours.