Taking Aim at p53: Researchers are targeting the tumor suppressor with vectors, viruses, and small molecules

p53 has emerged as one of the top targets in the war against cancer.

Paul Smaglik
Jan 17, 1999



POTENT COMBINATION: Joining gene therapy with conventional cancer treatment may more effectively kill recurring tumor cells, thinks Georgetown University Medical Center's Esther Chang. In preclinical experiments, Chang and colleagues administered p53via a compact, targeting nonviral vector along with DNA-damaging therapy to kill a variety of tumor types. The mice are cancer free 17 months after treatment, Chang reports.
Selectivity and ubiquity.

Because both properties characterize the tumor suppressor gene p53, the gene has emerged as one of the top targets in the war against cancer. P53 plays an integral role in activating programmed cell death (apoptosis) and is mutated in about 55 percent of tumor types. Potential relief strategies under development include replacing the defective gene, injecting viruses into tumors, and reactivating the gene's apoptotic function with small molecules.

When Arnold J. Levine, now president of Rockefeller University, and Princeton colleague Daniel I.H. Linzer discovered p53 in 1979,...

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