Friday, February 8, 2008

Why not call it Gene Therapy?

What I term "gene transfer" is often also called "gene therapy."  I prefer the former, which is based less on aspiration than fact.  That is, therapy implies validation for efficacy.  There are, at best, only two examples of gene transfer interventions where efficacy seems well established.  Use of the term "gene therapy" potentially misleads members of the public— and even experts not steeped in the gene transfer literature—into thinking that interventions are in advanced stages of development.

I realize "gene transfer" presents some grammatical problems (as in: "the patient received gene transfer for her disease" sounds awkward).  I'm afraid this is a compromise we'll have to live with.  In general, I tend to prefer using "gene transfer" as an adjective—say, the way people use "thrombolytic" to modify "drug."  I note that it is not uncommon within medicine for adjectival terms to graduate to noun status (e.g. anxiolytic).

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