Cut and Paste: Using Gene Editing to Treat Cancer

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CRISPR is a unique and remarkable gene-editing technique that allows scientists to delete, manipulate, or even replace genes of any organism. Much is being learned as experiments are done in areas such as agriculture, where genetic codes are edited to make crops more disease resistant, or in the prevention of infectious disease spread from insects to humans. 

Could the fundamentals of this same CRISPR technique be used to edit the genes of cancer patients to find an effective treatment that might lead to a cure? Though much is still being learned, a recent study yielded promising results in the hope that CRISPR might very well be a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer.

Premier HealthNow took the opportunity to speak with medical oncologist Satheesh Kathula, MD, of Dayton Physicians Network to better understand the study’s results, as well as their potential impact.

Encouraging Results Give Hope

“The study that was done was for a very small number of cancer patients who were injected with cells that had been genetically edited using CRISPR,” says Dr. Kathula. “Though it’s not clear yet how effective the treatment was, the good news is that it revealed that using this technique is not only safe, but using it to treat different cancers in the future is entirely feasible.”

Though it’s very early in the research process, Dr. Kathula and other scientists are very optimistic that this may open the door to even more effective treatment options in the future.

“Now that safety and feasibility have been established, the next round of studies will broaden to better determine CRISPR’s efficacy in a bigger group,” says Dr. Kathula.  

In its simplest form, CRISPR enables researchers to understand what takes place when certain genes are shut down. These same researchers, however, have been able to take that knowledge a step further by learning how to insert new genes in place of those that are being cut. 

Though seemingly complex, the ability to edit or engineer the human body’s own cells to fight cancer offers hope that some incredible breakthroughs may not be far away at all.  


Satheesh Kathula, MD

Satheesh Kathula, MD

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