What Is The Difference Between Gene Therapy And Immunotherapy, And Can Either Or Both Be Combined With Other Therapies?

Michael Carducci, M.D., Professor, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center

Jan. 01, 2009 -- Question: What is the difference between gene therapy and immunotherapy, and can either or both be combined with other therapies?

Answer: We're fortunate in prostate cancer that there are a number of new strategies moving forward for clinical evaluation to improve outcomes in prostate cancer. Immunotherapy -- trying to boost the immune system, gene therapy -- trying to use the genetic pattern of cancer cells to fight cancer, are two strategies, and in some cases gene therapy can be used as an immunotherapy. Immunotherapy can be a small molecule or gene therapy.

So there sort of is a blur between the two at times, and yet immunotherapy can be a complete, distinct approach using gene therapy as a way to deliver immune therapy.

So there are a lot of subtleties, or nuance, between the two therapies and it really looks that their side effect profiles, at least of the agents that have been tested so far, that they're going to be able to be easily combined with some of our other agents like chemotherapy, hormonal therapy -- which currently are the standards in advanced prostate cancer.