Lung cancer patients suffer a 15% overall survival despite advances in chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. This unacceptably low survival rate is due to the usual finding of advanced disease at diagnosis. However, multimodality strategies using conventional therapies only minimally improve survival rates even in early stages of lung cancer. Attempts to improve survival in advanced disease using various combinations of platinum-based chemotherapy have demonstrated that no regimen is superior, suggesting a therapeutic plateau and the need for novel, more specific, and less toxic therapeutic strategies. Over the past three decades, the genetic etiology of cancer has been gradually delineated, albeit not yet completely. Understanding the molecular events that occur during the multistep process of bronchogenic carcinogenesis may make these tasks more surmountable. During these same three decades, techniques have been developed which allow transfer of functional genes into mammalian cells. For example, blockade of activated tumor-promoting oncogenes or replacement of inactivated tumor-suppressing or apoptosis-promoting genes can be achieved by gene therapy. This article will discuss the therapeutic implications of these molecular changes associated with bronchogenic carcinomas and will then review the status of gene therapies for treatment of lung cancer.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.