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Scientists Are Using HIV To Kill Cancer

By / 12.11.12

Normally, giving HIV to a little girl suffering from chemo-resistant leukemia is a deserved one-way ticket to the electric chair, and then hell, and then the electric chair in hell. But in this particular case, giving Emma Whitehead a very specific form of HIV saved her life.

Whitehead was given an experimental treatment. A disabled form of the HIV virus is used to essentially rewrite the patient’s T-cells. HIV turns out to be a pretty handy way of rewriting human cells to do what you want, and in this case, it’s programmed to attack B-cells, which become malignant when suffering from leukemia.

Yeah, this is what scientists call a “Hail Mary” play, but this highly experimental treatment has, so far, worked on most of the patients it’s been used on. Emma Whitehead has been in full remission for a year; three adults are also in full remission, and four have been at least yanked back from the brink of death.

Granted, the actual treatment will be a special hell, because your body is literally attacking and eating pieces of itself; you get fevers and chills in equal measure.

It’s not a silver bullet: In two other adults it just didn’t work. But, on the other hand, it’s got a hell of a success rate. Nobody thinks this is a cure and it’s an absolute, last ditch effort, but considering just how horrible and painful blood cancers actually are, and considering the other last ditch Hail Mail play is a bone marrow transplant, of our two options, we’ll take the HIV, thanks.


TAGScancerHIVscience

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