New Gene Therapy Using Disabled HIV Cell May Help Cure Cancer

A patient suffering from Leukaemia recently underwent a new type of therapy at the University of Pennsylvania that used a disabled HIV to cure him of the cancer.

According to an article in the NY Times, William Ludwig had stopped treatment for his Leukaemia because chemotherapy had stopped working.  The doctors removed about a billion T-Cells from his body and modified them with a disabled HIV gene and then dripped the blood back into his body.

Surprisingly, the gene therapy worked.

At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.

There was no trace of it anywhere — no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells.

This may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. And not just for leukemia patients: other cancers may also be vulnerable to this novel approach — which employs a disabled form of H.I.V.-1, the virus that causes AIDS, to carry cancer-fighting genes into the patients’ T-cells. In essence, the team is using gene therapy to accomplish something that researchers have hoped to do for decades: train a person’s own immune system to kill cancer cells.

Read the full article here

Now if we can just get the HIV virus to turn on itself!

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