Gene therapy for cancer: regulatory considerations for approval

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The rapidly changing field of gene therapy promises a number of innovative treatments for cancer patients. Advances in genetic modification of cancer and immune cells and the use of oncolytic viruses and bacteria have led to numerous clinical trials for cancer therapy, with several progressing to late-stage product development. At the time of this writing, no gene therapy product has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the key scientific and regulatory issues include understanding of gene transfer vector biology, safety of vectors in vitro and in animal models, optimum gene transfer, long-term persistence or integration in the host, shedding of a virus and ability to maintain transgene expression in vivo for a desired period of time. Because of the biological complexity of these products, the FDA encourages a flexible, data-driven approach for preclinical safety testing programs. The clinical trial design should be based on the unique features of gene therapy products, and should ensure the safety of enrolled subjects. This article focuses on regulatory considerations for gene therapy product development and also discusses guidance documents that have been published by the FDA.

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