Targeting Gene Therapy - A Reality?

This was a very exciting and stimulating meeting devoted to basic and clinical research advances in gene therapy for the treatment of cancer.  Despite the recent unfortunate death due to gene therapy (of a patient without cancer) that has been widely discussed in the lay press the Forbeck meeting gave a very useful perspective on the current state of the art of this field.  From the results presented at this meeting it is possible to estimate that ~1,000 people in the world with cancer have received some form of gene therapy.  We can also conservatively estimate that 5-15% of these people have derived some benefit from this therapy.  A likely guess is that ~10 people have died possibly related to gene therapy (1% rate) and tests of other new therapies often have  mortality rates of 5-10%.  While we obviously don't want anyone harmed by gene therapy, these estimates tell us gene therapy is well within the range for possible benefits and side effects encountered in the development of other types of new cancer therapies.  Many different tumor types are being tested and these trials are mainly occurring in adults with children's trials to come later.