Cancer is a disease that we have been desperately trying to find a cure for decades. Even with 50 years of medical advancements, we still have not found a cure for cancer, or has it been under our noses this whole time?
Hope for survival for a young leukemic patient came from a highly unusual place. 7 year old Emily Whitehead had been battling leukemia for 2 years when last spring she experienced a relapse. The relapse was met with rounds of chemotherapy that had very little effect on Emily’s cancer.
The options for Emily seemed like they had been exhausted. She was 48 hours away organ failure when the doctor proposed an experimental procedure to Emily’s parents. With only 48 hours until the start of organ failure, her parents had to make a decision quickly. The experimental procedure was treating Emily’s leukemia with the HIV virus.
The procedure basically uses a modified (safe) form of the HIV virus. The HIV virus has the ability to easily get into human cells making it an excellent vehicle for the T cell needed to treat leukemia. The way it works is simple, in a way. Doctors took the modified HIV virus and injected the needed T cell into it. This was then injected into Emily’s blood stream where the HIV virus sought out and located the leukemic cancer cells. Once the HIV virus got into the leukemic cells, it destroyed them. The modified “killer” T cells began multiplying and attacking all her leukemic cells.
Emily went from being 48 hours away from organ failure, with very little hope of recovery to complete remission. To date, 12 people have received this treatment. According to the Detroit Free Press, three patients had complete remissions, two patients have had no signs of the disease after two years and four of the 12 patients saw disease improvement but not full remission.
For decades two big diseases, cancer and HIV, have been destroying people. Perhaps now doctors and scientists can turn pain and suffering into hope and life. Possibly HIV can be used as a cure for cancer. Now we just need a cure for HIV.
Below – Emily while battling Leukemia and Emily in remission.