Using HIV to cure leukemia

Using a disabled form of HIV, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a treatment that can cure many types of cancer that could not be destroyed by conventional alternatives.

The treatment uses a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS, to reprogram the immune system so that it can kill cancer cells.

Emma Whitehead, a girl, diagnosed with a form of leukemia that could not be defeated by two treatments with chemotherapy was among the minority of patients who have tested the new approach. Treatment with the disabled virus was severe and almost killed her. Fortunately, however, the girl survived, but the same can be said about the type of cancer you have. Moreover, now, seven months after treatment, she is still in remission.

In 2010, at the age of 5 years, Emma was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Now she is among the patients (few) who were treated developed by the University of Pennsylvania.

The creators hope that the new treatment technique to replace eventually, bone marrow transplantation, a procedure more difficult, risky and costly, which now represents the last hope for treating leukemia and diseases like this.

Emma addition three adults were suffering from acute leukemia, and now they are in remission. Of these, two are feeling better even two years after treatment. Four other patients treated at the University of Pennsylvania feel better, but did not have a complete remission, and one was treated recently and has not yet been rated.

On the other hand, the condition of another child and then improved disease to recur, while the other two adults treatment had no effect.

To create a treatment, doctors remove millions of T cells (a type of white blood cell) and insert new genes into them causing them to destroy cancer. The technique involves a disabled form of HIV, which turned out to be excellent for transporting genetic material in cells T. New genes planned to attack T cells B-cells, a normal part of the immune system undergo during malignant leukemia.

Subsequently modified T-cells are reintroduced into the veins of patients, where, if all goes according to plan, they multiply and begin to destroy cancerous tissue.

A sign that the treatment works is the patient who seems to get worse, it showing fever and chills.

Research is still in its infancy, and scientists do not know why the treatment works only for some patients. They suspect it’s a lot of T cells that have undergone a deficit. As a child who had a short period of remission, it seems that the disease came because not all leukemia cells that had been targeted marker of T cells

On the other hand, scientists do not know whether the patient will need all genetically modified T cells. These cells have a disadvantage: they do not destroy cancer affected only B cells but also healthy ones, which causes patients to become vulnerable to certain infections. That is Emma, for example needs regular treatment with immunoglobulin.