Health Alert 12-12: Using HIV to Treat Cancer?

By: Angela Howard
By: Angela Howard

Doctors say cancer nearly killed six-year-old Emily Whitehead until they tried a very different kind of treatment. They gave her a disabled form of HIV, the virus that causes aids. Now, Emily has been cancer-free for nearly seven months, and researchers say this could fundamentally change the way we treat leukemia.

The treatment uses a patient's own immune cells to kill cancer. It's being tested now in twelve patients with advanced Leukemia, including Emily.

Doctor David Porter is the director of blood and marrow transplantation at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine in Philadelphia. He's one of the doctors who helped develop this experimental treatment.

"What my colleagues have actually done is to take the part of the HIV virus that is good at getting into cells, get rid of the part that makes the cells sick and kills them and replace that with molecules that can then target the cells to fight Leukemia, so it uses the good parts without the bad parts," said David Porter, MD.

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