What is Antisense Therapy?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Antisense therapy is an approach to fighting various forms of cancer using oligonucleotides as part of the basic strategy. The aim of antisense oligonucleotide therapy is to control, and in some cases prevent, the absorption or translation of proteins that are believed to be playing a role in the development of the malignancy. By effectively using this type of therapy to remove essential building blocks used by the cancer, there is an increased chance that various treatments currently used to kill cancer cells will be effective.

Antisense therapies of this type work by locking onto the proteins and essentially encasing them. Once encased, the proteins cannot be absorbed and thus cannot feed the cancer. The encased proteins pass through the body without ever contributing to the strength or the further development of the malignant tumor.

There are several benefits to using antisense therapy as a front line treatment or as a stand alone therapy. One advantage has to do with the fact that the necessary oligonucleotides can be manufactured very quickly. Currently, it is possible to accomplish the task within a single week. As long as the gene sequence relevant to the patient is identified, the creation of the oligonucleotides can proceed without delay.


Another advantage associated with antisense therapy is the ease with which healthcare providers can assess the degree of sensitivity to the therapy. This makes it much easier to adjust the treatment series as needed, allowing the patient to progress as a pace that is in his or her best interests.

Antisense gene therapy also has great potential to lead to responses that last longer than other treatment methods. This is important not only in containing the spread of the cancer, but also in weakening the malignancy and inhibiting the chances of long term damage to vital organs.

There is also evidence that the use of antisense therapy is much easier to focus than many other traditional approaches to cancer treatment. The binding action can be controlled, measured for reactions or responses and then redirected as necessary. An approach of this type helps to eliminate some of the guesswork involved with other methods that can also damage healthy cells while attempting to kill off cancer cells.

Because antisense therapy treatment is a work in progress, there is every indication that the strategy will be refined over time, making it even more valuable in the fight to overcome cancer. Already utilized in a number of countries, more research into the potential of this type of treatment is taking place around the world. The research includes the investigation into potential long-term side effects as well as the efficacy of the treatment itself.


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