Although the development of effective viral vectors put gene therapy on the road to commercialization, nonviral vectors show promise for practical use because of their relative safety and lower cost. A significant barrier to the use of nonviral vectors, however, is that they have not yet proven effective. This apparent lack of interest can be attributed to the problem of the low gene transfer efficiency associated with nonviral vectors. The efficiency of gene transfer via nonviral vectors has been reported to be 1/10th to 1/1000th that of viral vectors. Despite the fact that new gene transfer methods and nonviral vectors have been developed, no significant improvements in gene transfer efficiency have been achieved. Nevertheless, some notable progress has been made. In this review, we discuss studies that report good results using nonviral vectors in vivo in animal models, with a particular focus on studies aimed at in vivo gene therapy to treat cancer, as this disease has attracted the interest of researchers developing nonviral vectors. We describe the conditions in which nonviral vectors work more efficiently for gene therapy and discuss how the goals might differ for nonviral versus viral vector development and use.
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