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HIV injected into cancer patients with some amazing results.

In 2011, 7 year old Emily Whitehead's, acute lymphoblastic leukemia came roaring back and her parents, on the advice of her oncologist and a cancer specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, attempted a second intense chemotherapy for their child.
Emma is one of the 15 % of children that have this cancer that do not respond to chemotherapy. The other 85 % are cured after 2 years of chemo.  

She failed the therapy. In April of 2012, Emma was enrolled as the first pediatric case in a clinical trial called CTL019. What she was a modified AIDS virus.

How CTL019 fka CART19 works.

This clinical trial, formerly referred to as CART19, uses immune cells taken from a patient's own blood, called T cells. These cells are genetically modified to express a protein which will recognize and bind to a target called CD19, which is found on cancerous B cells. Here is how CTL019 works:
1.The cancerous immune cell. B cells, which are found in the immune system, become cancerous in certain leukemias and lymphomas, such as ALL, NHL and CLL.
2.The healthy immune cell. T cells are the workhorses of the immune system, recognizing and attacking invading disease cells.
3.The problem. Cancerous B cells fly under the radar of immune surveillance, evading detection by T cells.
4.The solution. In this experimental treatment, T cells are collected from a patient, then reengineered in a lab to recognize and attach to a protein that is found only on the surface of B cells. After this reengineering, they are called chimeric antigen receptor T cells. The cells are put back into the patient where they disperse to find cancerous B cells.
5.The result. As the reengineered cells multiply in the body, they attach to and kill the rapidly dividing, cancerous B cells. They remain in the body long after to continue fighting any new cancerous B cells.

The modified HIV virus therapy worked for Emma

“Three weeks after receiving the treatment, she was in remission,” says Dr. Grupp. “Emily completely responded to her T cell therapy. We checked her bone marrow for the possibility of disease again at three months and six months out from her treatment, and she still has no disease whatsoever. The cancer-fighting T cells are still there in her body.”
To be clear, live HIV was not injected into clinical trial patients. There are some who criticize the origination of the treatment, implying that HIV DNA was not part of this therapy. But it is what it is, the therapy is HIV based.

The clinical trial needs much more research to become a possible treatment for those children that have acute lymphoblastic leukemia . But for Emily, she has her life back.

HIV and cancer are a scourge. But we have learned so much about the immune system from HIV, that not only HIV patients have benefited but now doors may be opening for others with terminal cancers. Talk about turning a lemon into lemonade.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao-Tzu

    by Pakalolo on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 05:27:16 AM PDT

  •  Chemo has such a devasting effect on the (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pakalolo, leftykook, Nica24, splashy, Orakio

    body -- what were the side effects of this treatment?

    Was it just one treatment, then HIV did its work? Or, like chemo, there are multiple treatments stretched over time?

    Is it possible that this treatment will replace chemo someday? It would be beyond amazing that kids (and adults) wouldn't have to go through the horrid chemo treatments!

    First the thing is impossible, then improbable, then unsatisfactorily achieved, then quietly improved, until one day it is actual and uncontroversial. ... It starts off impossible and it ends up done. - Adam Gopnik

    by theKgirls on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 06:44:29 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for the question. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theKgirls, leftykook, splashy, Orakio

      So far this is a very small clinical trial consisting of 12 individuals.

      regarding side effects, it is quite brutal in the beginning. It is similar to introducing anti-virals to a person that has  has high HIV virus levels. The body takes a hit, very strong flu like symptoms occur, followed by the body adapting and then doing it's job of killing the virus. This is what occurred with Emily, though Emily was very, very sick at the time. She experienced the flu like symptoms and became critically ill

      They learned that the level of a certain protein had become very elevated as a result of the T cells growing in her body. This same protein is involved in rheumatoid arthritis, and there is a drug for that disease that turns off production of that particular protein. The team administered the drug to Emily, with dramatic results: her condition improved faster than anyone could have hoped for. Almost overnight, her breathing improved, her fever dropped and her blood pressure was back to normal..
      Emily benefited significantly from the T cell therapy in a circumstance where there was no other treatment that had any possibility of controlling her disease. But it’s not yet time to call CTL019 a magic bullet. While the results in Emily and other CTL019 patients are encouraging, many more patients must be treated before scientists will know whether it is a viable, safe, long-term solution for controlling B cell cancers in children and adults.

      Dr. Grupp says there is a change in thinking surrounding enrollment in clinical trials for cancer patients. Rather than waiting until a patient is nearly out of options to consider experimental treatment options, oncologists are recognizing patients who might qualify for CTL019 and other clinical trials earlier in the process. “If we have a patient with high-risk disease where we think cell therapy might be necessary down the line, we’ll collect the cells now while the child is still reasonably healthy. It’s an insurance policy for the future.”

      In the long term, Dr. Grupp sees the potential for cell therapies like CTL019 as a possible replacement for bone marrow transplant. “I’ve been meeting with families to discuss bone marrow transplant for 20 years,” he says. “In almost every meeting, I say that bone marrow transplant is very hard and that if we had an alternative for children at that point in treatment, I would be delighted to put myself out of business. And for the first time, we’re seeing how that might actually happen.”

      "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao-Tzu

      by Pakalolo on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 07:07:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is excellent news. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pakalolo, splashy, Orakio

    This is very encouraging that the basic research on HIV can be applied to other diseases.  Of course, in retrospect, that's only logical.
    The thing that makes HIV/AIDs so devastating is that it preys on the immune system. So if we really come to grips with HIV, it will be because we have learned a huge amount about that system.
    But getting to here has been a struggle for reasons other than the technical/medical ones (which are daunting in their own right). The beginnings of this research were stalled and put off for nearly a decade by superstition, politics and bigotry. If the Reagan administration hadn't denied and ignored it, AIDs would not have become the plague that it is.
    If this turns out to be a viable cancer treatment, it will be a breakthrough for the entire race and will open the door to treatments of many other problems as well.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 08:47:19 AM PDT

  •  It's great if it works, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pakalolo, alain2112, Orakio

    How in the hell did it pass an Institutional Review Board?

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 10:34:09 AM PDT

    •  My guess... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pakalolo, Orakio

      Is because the kid had cancer and didn't respond to chemo.  Cases like this are often when we try out new things as last ditch efforts.  

      Education is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance. -Will Durant

      by Blue Dream on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 01:47:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Also, you modify the hell out of the HIV. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The vector that's actually used to deliver the trans-gene to the targeted T-cells has removed the ability of the virus to kill the targeted T-cell, as well as the ability to actually create more viruses once it's inside the cell - It can find a T-cell, and it can integrate itself with the DNA of the T-cell, and that's about it. It's about as related to HIV as corn is to the grass in the yard. With that much lower risk, the ethics of the situation change a little.  

  •  This sounds very promising (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Considering that cancer is the body not recognizing the aberrant cells, getting the body to realize they are a problem is harnessing the natural ability of our bodies to fight things off.

    Bet it has far fewer side effects too, considering that chemotherapy is actually poisoning people, but not enough to kill them.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 12:43:00 PM PDT

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