Treating Cancer with HIV

Thursday Jun 27, 2013

A team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania are giving the deadline HIV virus new meaning: they are using it to save lives.

The researchers, led by Carl H. June, say they have been successful in genetically engineering HIV to target cancer cells, as reported by HIV-Plus Mag.

The treatment being developed by these doctors injects patients' T cells with the modified form of HIV, disabling some parts of it some that it can't cause AIDS, but still using it to attack cancerous cells in the body. They claim that one such HIV cell can kill up to 1,000 cancerous cells.

Patients like 7-year-old Emma Whitehead, a girl from Pennsylvania who was fighting leukemia, were "infected" with the reprogrammed HIV virus. Months later her leukemia disappeared, doctors say. A total of 12 patients have been subjected to the treatment; nine of them are in full or partial remission, June said.

The team now wants to see how their treatment can fight other types of cancer, like pancreatic cancer.

"We want to cure cancer, we do," June said. "I think sometimes it's hard to think that you might actually succeed."

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