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     Our long-term goal is to develop a Center of Excellence in Gene Therapy at LSUHSC-Shreveport. The Center would support interdisciplinary research designed to understand on a cellular and molecular level the causes of human disease and to develop rational gene therapeutic approaches for the treatment of diseases. The Center would consist of a number of interdisciplinary research programs based on established basic science research efforts at LSUHSC focused on understanding the molecular and cell biology of different groups of diseases. These programs would include areas of expertise at LSUHSC-S, including cancer, neuro-degenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, we will develop ongoing LSUHSC pre-clinical studies into phase I trials and develop an infrastructure that will foster recruitment of extramural phase II and phase III clinical trials. We envision that the Center would develop strong ties with the Biomedical Research Foundation to assist in the recruitment of biotechnology companies to the Shreveport area and to aid in the training of students in the area of molecular biotechnology. The center would also maintain a number of core research facilities that would be made available to all LSUHSC research scientists.
     The gene therapy program at LSUHSC-S is presently composed of basic and clinical researchers across several Dept.s (Urology, Biochemistry, Otolaryngology, Cell Biology, Microbiology, Pharmacology, and Medicine) with a wide variety of approaches to cancer gene therapy. These researchers are linked by their main focus on applying basic science research to the clinic, resulting in tangible benefits to patients in the near term. The proposed expansion of this program would build upon the research of seven full time faculty members at LSUHSC-S with over $1.5 million in grant funding. These faculty members already constitute an impressive nucleus for developing a solid program in gene therapy of cancer. The fruits of this effort are now seen in our expansion into the field of clinical gene therapy with undertaking of a phase III trial of head and neck cancer with p53 adenovirus. This trial is sponsored by Aventis and is one of very few gene therapy trials, which aims to go beyond establishing the proof of principle to produce a clinical benefit to our patients. As more basic research projects near completion, they are expected to be available for translation into clinical trials. The potential for cancer gene therapy at LSUHSC-S exists because of unique attributes to this campus. First, much of the work within the FWCC is translational-bedside problems coming back to the laboratory and then the results of the research being directly applicable to clinical problems. Second, the FWCC has developed the most active clinical cancer research program within Louisiana: the FWCC places more minority patients on clinical trials than any other institution in the United States; the FWCC is a leader in placing patients with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemias and lymphomas onto clinical trials; the FWCC bone marrow transplantation program is the busiest of the three in Louisiana.

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