Verhandelingen - Koninklijke Academie voor Geneeskunde van België vol:66 issue:4 pages:305-17; discussion 317-20
Gene therapy is defined as the introduction of genetic material in a patient's cells with resulting therapeutic benefit. It is a promising new biomedical discipline that could potentially lead to new treatments for hereditary diseases, cardiovascular and neurologic disorders, cancer, diabetes and even infectious diseases. The introduction of genetic material into somatic cells requires gene delivery vectors. Since viruses have developed efficient means to introduce their own genetic material into cells they can be readily adapted as viral vectors for gene therapy. Preclinical studies in animal models have shown that therapeutic effects can be achieved after gene therapy for genetic, acquired and complex disorders. Furthermore, therapeutic effects have been obtained in several phase I/II gene therapy clinical trials for hemophilia, severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) and cancer. Gene transfer technology has improved significantly over the past few years and has led to the development of vectors which have fewer side-effects without compromising their efficacy, at least partly due the development of cell-type specific targetable vectors. Nevertheless, the success of gene therapy is still very much depending upon the continuous development of improved vector technologies which would hopefully and ultimately cure diseases which are refractory to current treatment paradigms.