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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Health News: HIV Virus Cure For Cancer

The HIV virus may be about to become a new weapon in the fight against cancer as initial tests have shown it can drastically minimize and even help cure the most common form of leukemia.

A research team, led by Dr. Carl June working out of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, has been experimenting with using a harmless version of the HIV virus combined with genetically modified white blood cells as a new way to fight cancer. The cells are taken from patients and modified with new genes that make them target cancer cells, but just as importantly, they can also multiply once injected allowing them to scale up as a small army inside the body.

The results have surprised everyone. These modified cells have acted like serial killers, multiplying and killing all of the cancer cells in two patients, while reducing them by 70% in a third. The equivalent of five pounds of cancer cells has disappeared from each patient. More good news stems from the fact that the modified cells remain in the body and have been seen to reactivate and kill new cancer cells as long as 12 months after they were first injected.

Usually leukemia is treated with medication, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and in some cases bone marrow transplants, all of which can have side effects and complications. This new treatment involves a single injection and the modified white blood cells do the rest of the work. If the same results seen in these first 3 patients are mirrored across a larger group it could signal a huge step forward in the treatment of a disease that currently kills hundreds of thousands of adults and children every year.

The results of the research have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It’s important to note that this small trial involving just three patients was lucky to go ahead at all. The study was rejected by pharamceutical companies and the National Cancer Institute. It was only through a grant awarded by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy that these patients received the treatment. We suspect the next trial will have more than enough interest, and therefore money, to go ahead.

Source: Abramson Cancer Center
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