HIV Virus Helps Cure Girl’s Leukemia

HIV Virus Helps Cure Girl's LeukemiaIn April 2012, 7-year-old Emily “Emma” Whitehead was in the fight of her life following her second relapse of acute lymphoblastic—or lymphocytic—leukemia (ALL). The then 6-year-old’s parents and doctors turned to an unlikely source to save the young girl’s life—the HIV virus.

‘Disabled form of HIV’

Emma, diagnosed with ALL in 2010, underwent an experimental procedure involving a disabled form of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, after two unsuccessful courses of chemotherapy failed to achieve sustained remission. The treatment, pioneered at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is similar to therapies being developed at other cancer centers around the U.S.

Emma is one of a handful of patients with advanced leukemia to receive the CT019 therapy (formerly called CART 19 therapy), an experimental treatment that involves doctors reprogramming a person’s T-cells—a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the immune system—to search out and kill cancer cells. It’s important to note that the T-cells are removed from the patient before being bioengineered with the HIV virus. The patient is not injected with the virus. This treatment differs from chemotherapy, a drug that is one of the most common treatments of leukemia, which kills off all fast-growing cells in the body.

‘In remission and thriving’

Three weeks after receiving the treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a bone marrow test revealed Emma had achieved remission. Today, she’s still in remission and thriving, but her doctors caution the remission needs to be sustained for a few years before using words like “cured.”

In a statement, Hervé Hoppenot, the president of Novartis Oncology, called the research “fantastic” and said it had the potential—if the early results held up—to revolutionize the treatment of leukemia and related blood cancers. Researchers hope similar therapies that involve the reprogramming of a patient’s immune system, may also eventually be used to fight cancerous breast and prostate tumors.

Do you believe the HIV virus can someday be used to treat other kinds of cancer? Share your thoughts on this latest health issue!

Source: Yahoo Health

Image: RT

A Single Drug For All Cancers?

A single drug can shrink or cure human breast, ovary, colon, bladder, brain, liver, and prostate tumors that have been transplanted into mice, researchers have found. The treatment, an antibody that blocks a “do not eat” signal normally displayed on tumor cells, coaxes the immune system to destroy the cancer cells.

A decade ago, biologist Irving Weissman of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, discovered that leukemia cells produce higher levels of a protein called CD47 than do healthy cells. CD47, he and other scientists found, is also displayed on healthy blood cells; it’s a marker that blocks the immune system from destroying them as they circulate. Cancers take advantage of this flag to trick the immune system into ignoring them.

In the past few years, Weissman’s lab showed that blocking CD47 with an antibody cured some cases of lymphomas and leukemias in mice by stimulating the immune system to recognize the cancer cells as invaders. Now, he and colleagues have shown that the CD47-blocking antibody may have a far wider impact than just blood cancers. “We showed that even after the tumor has taken hold, the antibody can either cure the tumor or slow its growth and prevent metastasis,” says Weissman.

Cancer researcher Tyler Jacks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge says that although the new study is promising, more research is needed to see whether the results hold true in humans.

Weissman’s team has received a $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to move the findings from mouse studies to human safety tests. “We have enough data already,” says Weissman, “that I can say I’m confident that this will move to phase I human trials.”

Source: Digg

Image: Topic Pls