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Cancer Treatment In Clinical Trials At UC San Diego


Dr. Clark Chen, MD, PhD, Chief of Stereotactic and Radiosurgery and Vice-Chairman of Neurosurgery at UC San Diego Health System


An innovative approach to treating brain cancer is in clinical trials at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

The trial is one of the first in the world to combine gene therapy with real-time MRI imaging.

Dr. Chen delivering gene therapy using a special technique to potentially treat brain tumors.

Surgeons can deliver the treatment directly into the tumor. They hope that previously untreatable brain tumors, like glioblastomas, can be helped by this new procedure.

“With chemotherapy, just about every human cell is exposed to the drug’s potential side effects. By using the direct injection approach, we believe we can limit the presence of the active drug to just the brain tumor and nowhere else in the body,” said Clark Chen, MD, PhD, chief of stereotactic and radiosurgery and vice chairman of neurosurgery at UC San Diego Health System.

“With MRI, we can see the tumor light up in real time during drug infusion. The rest of the brain remains unaffected so the risk of the procedure is minimized.”

The drug, a retrovirus called Toca 511 was engineered by San Diego-based Tocagen Inc. It's designed to selectively replicate in cancer cells, such as glioblastomas.

Toca 511 produces a protein which turns an anti-fungal drug to chemotherapy, making the tumor suicidal.

For more information about this clinical trial at Moores Cancer Center, call 858-822-5377.

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