Scalpel! Laser! Retrovirus!

An ingenious experiment offers hope for a new kind of surgery for cancer

ONE REASON THAT BRAIN CANCER IS SO TERRIFYING is that tumors tend to bury themselves deep in the gray matter, where scalpels and lasers cannot reach them without doing irreparable damage to the patient's mind. That is why scientists were particularly excited by an ingenious experiment reported last week in Science magazine. The procedure is a form of gene therapy, but it turns conventional molecular engineering on its head. Rather than trying to inject good genes into cells that lack their beneficial properties, scientists have found a way to put bull's-eyes on tumor cells in order to shoot them dead.

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