A 6-year-old girl was apparently cured of cancer using a form of the HIV virus to fight leukemia cells.
The young girl, Emma Whitehead, was put on a clinical trial when it appeared all hope was lost and chemotherapy failed. She was injected with a disabled form of the HIV virus to reprogram her immune system to destroy cancer cells genetically, reported Yahoo!
Whitehead has now been in remission since December.
“She is in complete remission, she has no leukemia in her body by any test that we can do, even the most sensitive tests,” Dr. Stephan Grupp of Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital said.
The doctors are calling the HIV strands “serial killer cells” as they hunt down all cancer cells.
“The treatment works by injecting a harmless, modified version of HIV into the patient’s immune cells, training their immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. The idea is to ‘fight fire with fire,'” said Grupp.
Whitehead was one of a dozen people to be given this trial treatment, with three adults making full recoveries and two of them healthy for two years.
Four others showed improvement, one child improved but then relapsed, while two showed no improvement.
“The patients became very ill with feverish symptoms before recovering, and Emily almost died. Researchers said the treatment, which costs about $20,000 for each patient, was in the early stages but they hope it could ultimately replace risky bone marrow transplants,” reported The Telegraph.
“Previous patients got sick, but it wasn’t clear at the time whether it was due to the T-cells or an infection. Now we know the main reason they were sick was the cells. But now we can intervene. (Emily) taught us,” Grupp said.
“In the war against cancer there is no one in front of Emily,” said Emily’s father Tom to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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