HIV as Cancer Treatment: 7-Yr-Old Emily Whitehead Survives Leukaemia with Experimental Procedure
By Arlene Paredes | December 13, 2012 3:27 PM EST
A genetically-modified form of HIV has helped save the life of 7-year-old Emily Whitehead, a patient at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. After nearly two years of braving the killer leukaemia, the little girl is now able to go back to school.
Emily had been battling leukaemia with chemotherapy for almost two years. She suffered from two relapses within the period. U.S. doctors said the young girl was losing the battle against the aggressive disease when they started the experimental treatment in February this year.
HIV was modified such that it would lose the harmful properties that cause AIDS. With the modified HIV, doctors have boosted Emily's own immune system.
Emily was one of a dozen people who have received the treatment. Three adults remain in remission, and two of them have been cancer-free for more than two years now, reports Telegraph's Nick Allen. The treatment failed to work in two adults.
"The way we get the new gene into the T cells (immune cells) is by using a virus. This virus was developed from the HIV, however all of the parts of the HIV that can cause disease are removed [such that it is] impossible to catch HIV or any other infection. What's left is the property of the HIV virus that allows it to put new genes into cells," Dr Grupp said.
The treatment was no less difficult than chemotherapy for Emily. She had gone to the intensive care unit in the process. But it may be all worth the extreme difficulty. The doctors said it is too soon to tell whether Emily is now cancer-free, but test results seemed promising. If all works well, Emily will have a supercharged immune system against a recurrence of the cancer.
"She has no leukaemia in her body for any test that we can do - even the most sensitive tests," Mr Grupp told ABC news. "We need to see that the remission goes on for a couple of years before we think about whether she is cured or not. It is too soon to say."
The treatment costs about $20,000 for each patient. It worked well with Emily, but the results in others show more studies have to be made. It is hoped that with further research, the modified HIV treatment could replace the more risky bone marrow transplants as leukaemia treatment.
To contact the editor, e-mail:
Most Popular Slideshows
- Jennifer Lawrence & Nicholas Hoult Allegedly Split: Mad Max Actor Cheats with Kristen Stewart & Riley Keough - Reports
- Taylor Swift Named Forbes' Second Highest Paid Country Musician [PHOTOS]
- Forever Lost: Indescribable Anguish for Malaysia Airlines MH17 Families, Remains of Some Victims May Never Be Found (PHOTOS)
- Lunch with the Gods: Pope Francis Eats with Vatican Workers in Cafeteria
Join the Conversation
- Google Nexus 6, 8 with Android L on Release Date Promises Killer Mobile Device Experience
- iPhone 6 Release Date Relevance to iOS Newbies: Specs Meaning, Price Considerations
- Killer Whales Gobble Japanese Whaling Crew
- 12-inch MacBook Apple Retina and 2014 MacBook Pro to Feature Liquid Sensors, Release in October
- The Pirate Bay Releases ‘The Mobile Bay’: Mobile Torrent Download Made Easier but Remains Illegal
- 5 Marketing Nuggets We Can All Learn From Lady Gaga
- Malaysia Airlines Considers Changing Name After MH370 and MH17 Tragedies