HIV is being used as a possible cure for cancer

A neat video about how researchers are using a modified HIV virus – yes, the virus that causes AIDS – to fight cancer.  In the case detailed in the video, a little girl named Emma is now in remission from leukemia as a result of the so-far successful treatment.

Emma-HIV-leukemia

A reader who’s a doctor, Mark Thoma, MD, sent in his summary of the new treatment:

If you never thought you’d see the day when you’d appreciate HIV . . .

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were looking for a way to stop tumor cell growth, or actively kill the tumor cells.  They had several patients (adults with chronic lymphocytic leukenia) and kids with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  These patients had failed all previous standard chemotherapy treatments and would all have probably died in less than a 1 month.

Researchers at Penn had developed a technique to modify the patients’ own T-cells to turn them into what they called “serial killer” cells.  These serial killer T-cells could each kill approximately 1000 tumor cells that had the CD-19 antigen on them.  This antigen is found on the malignant lymphocytes in these leukemia patients.

To produce the serial killers, researchers needed to modify the patients’ own T-cells by genetically engineering them to produce an antibody-like protein that would sic them on the tumor cells.  To do that, the researchers needed to get at the T-cells’ genes.  They found that the best way to get this process to work was to use HIV.

The HIV naturally seeks out T-cells and binds to them, then injects its own genetic material, functionally taking over the cell.  Forcing it to produce millions of copies of HIV before the cell dies.  The researchers modified the HIV so that it could no longer cause the infected cells to produce HIV.  But it was programmed to cause them to produce the protein that would make them highly specific serial killers.

The researchers removed T-cells from each patient, cultured them, added the specially programmed HIV.  They let the HIV inject and modify the cells, removed them and infused them into the patients.  The results?  The modified T-cells were very effective.  In one case, the modified T-cells destroyed an estimated two POUNDS of tumor.

12 patients who participated in this small trial (10 adults and 2 children).  Nine patients responded and all are still alive, some after almost three years.  They show no evidence of any remaining leukemic cells and are generally doing well.

The research received additional grant funding and is continuing.  The possibility exists that, using modified HIV, other tumor antigens can be successfully targeted and similarly destroyed.

A really neat story, and nice video – it’s only 3 minutes or so long, worth a quick look.  Nice to start the day on a high note:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Althaf Azhar

    you really inspired me bro :)

  • Kevin Worldsavior

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  • maria

    Hi, I work in a communication company I want to share my testimony to the world, my name is maria katrina, i am from united kingdom in belfast north Ireland, I was a stripper in a club I got effected with HIV due to the nature of my job, In April 15 2013 i was tested positive to HIV, Believe it or not this is a true life experience. This is not design to convince you but its just a personal health experience . I never taught doctor ukpoyan could ever get my HIV-AIDS cured with his healing spell, i have tried almost everything but I couldn’t find any solution on my disease, despite all these happening to me, i always spend a lot to buy a HIV drugs from hospital and taking some several medications but no relieve, until one day i was just browsing on the internet when i came across a great post of !Michelle! who truly said that she was been diagnose with HIV and was healed that very week through the help of this great powerful healing spell doctor ,I wonder why he is called the great papa ukpoyan, i never knew it was all because of the great and perfect work that he has been doing that is causing all this. so I quickly contacted him, and he ask me some few questions and so i did all the things he asked me to do, He never collected any money from me until I was finally cured, only to see that at the very day which he said i will be healed, all the strength that has left me before rush back and i becomes very strong and healthy, this disease almost kills my life all because of me, so i went to hospital to give the final test to the disease and the doctor said i am HIV negative, i am very amazed and happy about the healing doctor ukpoyan gave to me from the ancient part of africa, you can email him now for your own healing too on his email: [email protected] thank you doctor for healing me.

  • Kevin Worldsavior

    Everybody can rest assured. The only radical solution against cancer on Earth is the PCK – the Personal Cancer Killer – a devastating weapon of unlimited power against any cancers and infectious diseases on Earth – a discovery that can change the life of humans on the planet. We humans are not helpless against cancers and infectious diseases any more – we can strike back with a devastating force. Nature has provided us the enormous power of being as healthy as Gods, we just gotta activate it and become completely independent of any vaccines, drugs, doctors, hospitals, clinics, surgeries (especially the awful mastectomies), any kinds of therapies (but not cure), etc. Doing the Immunizer (PCK), all of us – kids and adults – can be any bugs and cancers killers and enjoy the perfect health all the time, all our lives (much longer than usual), regardless of age, environmental and occupational exposure and lifestyle.
    Any cancers and infectious diseases on Earth can be wiped out immediately (everybody being his/her own Jesus) by doing an exercise (incredible as it may seem) – the Immunizer – just a simple exercise for a minute a day for kids and adults as the full prevention of any diseases – from the common cold to cancer. If done for 3 – 4 minutes a day, the immunizer will guarantee a very fast recovery from any viral and other infections and any forms of cancer at any stage. No killer viruses, bacteria, germs and cancers on Earth got any chance against the tremendous power of the immunizer – they just die the moment they touch you.
    The price to disclose the Immunizer to the whole world is 2,25 Trillion US Dollars.
    Further details of the incredible Immunizer are available upon request.

  • Kyle

    From what I’ve read, HIV virus does not go anywhere near the blood of the patients. The patients T-cells are extracted and modified via the virus in order to change their targeting to target the cancer cells. T-cells do not divide themselves, they don’t grow. Given that these HIV viruses have been repurposed, in essence what the scientists did is extract every single bit of the part of the virus that actually causes the disease (i.e. the virus’ DNA) and replaced it in its entirety with the specific genetic sequences that the scientists want them to deliver to the T-cells. Thus, there is no risk of the patients getting AIDS or anything like that.

  • Sentry616

    From treating cancer with mustard gas aka chemo, to modified HIV. The things that can fuck us up royal can be bent to our needs. Not a day goes by that I don’t offer up a prayer to the ghost of Carl Sagan to carry my thanks to the gods of science. Praise be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  • Sentry616

    Faith, it surrounds us, it penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.

  • August17th

    But what happens to the modified HIV cells left in the body. Could this potentially cause another problem/disease/sickness/virus? How will the remaining “serial killer” cells affect the body’s normal cells? I don’t imagine they just go away? Also, if she wanted to have children, how would it affect the development of the baby? This is a wonderful discovery and if it works it would be amazing! But I think its safe to say sometimes fighting fire with fire has the potential of just causing a bigger fire. I’ve seen someone dearest to me wither away from cancer. I was in the room when she took her last breath. I wouldn’t want to see anyone else go through something so awful nor would I want anyone else to lose someone to the sickness. However, I’m worried that in the effort to fix one problem we may be causing two others.

  • k8

    It really proves that nothing in God’s creation is evil.

  • Deadeye Duck

    Thank you, Theodoric. “You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter’s was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by atoad or a small dwarf living in her stomach.”

  • Greendogo

    Probably, but it isn’t likely to mutate back to being true HIV, like it once was. It would have to mutate a bunch of genes to be exactly what they were again, which is unlikely if the researchers deleted them from the virus. And by unlikely, we’re talking pretty much impossible.

  • ‘lulah

    “The researchers modified the HIV so that it could no longer cause the infected cells to produce HIV.” I took this to indicate that the replication of HIV was inhibited in the infected T cells, which would mean the virus would not have a chance to mutate at the terrifyingly high rate it normally does.

  • Harrold Raynard

    Cures are always just around the corner that’s there way of getting more money cancer is a multibillion dollar industry they don’t want a cure
    Here’s a cure for cancer

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/therapeutic-device-for-electromagnetic-dna-manipulation

  • Bill Reynolds

    Looks very intriguing, but how can they posit, with only one sample of data, that this is a causation and not merely a correlation?

  • Nimbus Conflict

    The Amish do. But they are pretty crafty in the end…

  • emjayay

    About a fourth of them do not believe in a god.

  • emjayay

    That is not what he said.

  • emjayay

    I drink Fabuloso because it makes me Fabuloso.

  • Melissa D

    As ABruntStorm mentioned, HIV is not AIDS. But I should add that altered HIV is still not HIV, the HIV virus carries harmful effects which are “removed” from this altered virus. The altered virus only carries HIV’s capabilities of “rewriting” DNA of the T-cells it’s targeting; the scientists hijacked that capability but reprogrammed the virus to only target tumors.

    http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2013/06/25/no-doctors-did-not-inject-hiv-into-a-dying-girl-to-treat-her-cancer/
    That explains it a bit better ;)

  • docsterx

    Excellent questions and good ideas for possible research. I’m by no means an HIV expert so I can’t be sure
    of the answers or even if the answers are completely known. But when T
    cells go on the hunt, they attack other cells against which they have
    been directed by genetic/biochemical programming. Theoretically, yes
    they could seek out and kill infected Ts. However, unless there were a
    significant difference in the surfaces of HIV-infected and non-HIV
    infected cells, these T cells would try to kill ALL T cells, even their
    cloned brothers. This could eventually leave the patient without any T
    cells at all. Also, these serial killer Ts would specifically attack
    (in your proposal) infected Ts. HIV also can get into other cells
    (macrophages, dendritic cells) and these WOULDN’T be attacked by this
    serial killer population. So even if all infected Ts were destroyed,
    infected macrophages and dendritic cells would still be present and able
    to infect the remaining Ts. To make your idea work, the serial killer
    ts would have to successfully target all infected Ts, dendritic cells
    and macrophages. And then remain on the prowl to detect the cells that
    appeared uninfected (because the HIV was dormant) once the HIV becomes active at a future date.

    When HIV
    enters T cells it directs the host cells’ DNA to make HIV. The infected
    Ts then produce HIV until they eventually die. Or HIV can lie dormant
    for some period of time before becoming active in the host T cell. Not
    all of the Ts may become infected when a patient has HIV. Presumably,
    the uninfected Ts could be programmed to attack other Ts as described
    above.

    I hope this helps answer your questions.

  • Dustie

    Can they modify a separate HIV strain so that it modifies T-cells in a patient so that the T-cells start tracking and killing the already-present HIV infection in a patient? Or does the already-present infection in a patient render a patient’s T-cells permanently changed, to the extent that they can no more be cultivated outside the patient’s body and properly altered?

  • Lul

    Ah yes, RAS syndrome.

  • cole3244

    bs 101 from the god squad!

  • huli04

    Ok, But yet ask any doctor or science what they believe it. And I bet they all will tell you it’s some form of faith. We don’t make these accomplishments alone man. It just that there are some people out there who turn faith into hate out of ignorance,but what they fail to understand is that faith is actually Pure Hope, Guidance and Vision for the future. We all have to believe in something, for if not there will be nothing. All great ideas and inventions some from having faith to create something better.

  • cole3244

    more utter nonsense from a believer, keep your head in the sand so reality won’t terrify you.

  • Dani Barton

    Ditto! I am thankful there are doctors that think outside the box like this to find such clever ways to fight diseases and to find cures. It’s amazing what they do. Some people are so narrow minded, don’t think outside the box and lack understanding of what doctors and scientists are trying to do. I appreciate that they are pushing the envelope like this! I have a feeling the person above would refuse this sort of treatment if it was their last option and that is purely an example of natural selection at work.

  • huli04

    Faith isn’t the problem. Faith is what makes science possible. Without it most of us and our predecessors would have giving up long ago. It is Faith that drives us to believe that we can make a difference. To believe that we aren’t limited but yet we are limitless. Faith teaches us this.

  • huli04

    Thank you for trying to educate, the uneducated.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Wow. It must say something about my life that I find that so interesting.

  • ABruntStorm

    For the record. HIV is -not- AIDS. HIV can -cause- AIDS but there are many with HIV who never contract AIDS even though it is the usual course of things. Knowledge. It’s amazing.

  • perljammer

    That’s not a spelling error; it’s an example of RAS (Redundant Acronym Syndrome), which is so commonplace that it’s no longer looked upon as improper.

    PIN number, ATM machine, DVD disk, RAID array, laser light — the list goes on and on.

  • Venus

    Africans will come in handy now ,quick call them and request a gallon of that infected blood

  • Indigo

    What a beautiful moment when a known pathogen can be retooled to do healing work.

  • Indigo

    That’s the part I like best, suggesting that in every distress is also a remedy.

  • cole3244

    thanks for making my point although i know that wasn’t your intent.

  • r00fus

    I have faith in humanity’s use of science to (eventually) solve problems.

    Faith isn’t the problem. It’s faith in imaginary friends that gets you into trouble when it’s improperly given.

  • docsterx

    Asswell House, Stanka or Chock Full O’Butts work well, too.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    The best part of waking up is Folgers in your butt!

  • docsterx

    My feeling, too. If you’re going to build a good, solid house, you let the professionals (architects, plumbers, masons, electricians, etc.) do it. You don’t have the neighbors over to start by digging a hole with shovels.

  • docsterx

    It wasn’t meant as breaking news. The papers on the studies came out months ago. I just wrote about it because, for all of the death, fear, social upheaval that HIV has caused, it’s lousy carcass is now doing something beneficial and is saving lives rather than ending them. And it’s truly novel and creative research. If this really works out, especially if it can be applied to other cancers, June et al. may be candidates for the Lasker Prize.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Exactly. My belief is you go with what professionals know has the greatest chance of success, and you use alternative things as supporting therapy, under supervision with your doctor so they know what you’re trying and can guarantee it won’t be more harmful than helpful. Nobody is saying not to shoot coffee into your ass if it makes you feel better, but if that and prayer is all you’re doing for a life-threatening illness, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

  • docsterx

    Congratulations on being cancer-free!

  • docsterx

    I’ve seen lots of patients go through chemo/radiation/surgery/immunotherapy/bone marrow transplants and other treatments. They are often difficult, can be painful, depressing and just really nasty. If some much less debilitating treatment worked, like coffee enemas or baking soda, I’d get behind that. Unfortunately, there’s very limited good evidence for most alternative therapies. Until there is real, hard, reproducible evidence that something else works better, we need to continue with what we have to offer.
    Sadly, many people die each year because they accept one or more of these alternative therapies. They stop, or never start a traditional course of treatment and their disease finishes them off.

  • Rrhain

    Spelling flame: The “V” in “HIV” stands for “virus.” Thus, “HIV virus” reads as “human immuno-deficiency virus virus.”

  • docsterx

    From the link you posted above:

    “Baking Soda a known cleaner that will get out
    the worst stains on stainless steel. Sodium Bicarbonate
    will do the same thing inside you; clean you out.
    When you use this method you are cleaning your
    entire fluid system within your body. Soda Bicarbonate
    is a possible AIDS cure too. ”

    There is no stainless steel in the body unless prosthetic joints have been implanted. Saying that baking soda cleans stainless steel has no bearing on what it can or can’t do in the body. Concentrated hydrochloric acid is much better at cleaning stains, but it is never used to treat patients. Also, bicarbonate can upset the acid-base balance in the body and cause the patient to become ill or even die. Chlorox, scouring pads, Top Job are all good cleaning products. By the above logic (“If it is a good cleaner it will clean out the cancer, too.”) we should be using those products, too, to cure cancer.

    “Cesium chloride / DMSO:

    Cancer cannot live in a high pH environment. Cesium
    chloride – -

    will raise the pH to 8.0 within your body.”

    This is correct. Cancer cannot love at pH of 8.0. Unfortunately, neither can you. Almost all humans will die if the pH reaches approximately 7.7 or thereabouts. Tumor will be dead as will patient. A definite cure, but not a truly beneficial or effective one.

    Dimethylsulfoxide and dichloroacetate are toxins themselves and can cause organ damage.

    Coffee enemas have been used at least from the 1960 in Mexico, the US (illegally) and other countries. Thousands have died hoping that the coffee enemas would save them. Similar things with laertrile, psychic surgery and others. Steve McQueen and Michael Landon are just two well-known people who used coffee enemas to “cure” cancer and both died from that disease. Dr. Gerson and his coffee enema therapy both have been thoroughly disproven/debunked.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    You’re trying to explain rudimentary science to someone who just advocated pumping coffee into your ass, and the use of baking soda – because it cleans other things, so obviously it should clean disease out of you! Seems to me that you’re not going to get much traction. I can understand why someone like him, who has seen a loved one go through existing cancer treatment first hand, would be looking for other, less invasive, methods… but there is a reason why oncologists the world over keep going back to radiation, chemotherapy and surgical removal methods for cancer, and only use the things he suggests as supportive therapies – on a case by case basis. New gene/virus therapies are an incredible breakthrough, and I can’t fathom someone who has seen cancer in a loved one would dismiss it out of hand. Aside from fear and ignorance.

  • Monoceros Forth

    He’ll just do what almost every other loud proponent of “alternative medicine” does when they get seriously ill: go to a real doctor. (I suppose you have to admire in a twisted way the hardcore Christian Scientists and Jehovah’s Witnesses who literally put their lives on the line. Too bad they do the same for their kids’ lives.)

  • docsterx

    And the letters “C” and “D” and the numbers “1″ and “9,” says Kermit the hematologist/oncologist. Fortunately, there was grant money available in order to allow the research to continue.

  • docsterx

    Unfortunately, the HIV present in those infected with native (not the inactivated form of HIV used in the above research) causes the infected T cells to die. The native HIV doesn’t have the ability to produce the “serial killer” cells. And, these T cells will only kill lymphocytes, not tumor cells of other types. Though work is being done to see if inactivated HIV can carry the information to cause T cells to become active against other types of cancer, like melanoma and some others.

  • docsterx

    No disease was “added.”

  • docsterx

    They used inactivated (unable to cause disease) HIV as a transporter to carry a message into the T cells to get them to attack the leukemia cells. It has nothing to do with AIDS.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Feel free to use these methods. After all, it’s your body.

  • Preston White

    Cutting is understandable if it is the only to remove the tumor. But your explaining to people that after 13 years you can never see how technology and medicine have advanced enough to say there is no other choice but the poison to survive? There are many options to eliminate cancer cells in your body other than chemo/poison.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    We all know what radiation can do to a person, but it is commonly used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy is poison, but it is commonly used to treat cancer. Surgery is basically cutting a person, but it is commonly used to treat cancer. You may do what you want, but when I was diagnosed with cancer, I chose the cutting and poison. I’ve been cancer free since the year 2000.

  • Zorba

    You can say whatever you want to say, and hold onto your delusions. Frankly, I don’t care, as long as you are not making public policy.
    But good luck to you if you ever get a terrible form of cancer.

  • Preston White

    It’s ok you are not forced to use what is there. If this is the cure, there is a cure, maybe I should read about these 3 items he “claims” will cure cancer. I say there is alternatives to curing cancer not adding one disease to cure another, what could go wrong there?

  • Snackpack

    A “Higher Power” didn’t do it, science did.

  • Zorba

    Oh, sure. Baking soda and coffee enemas are going to cure cancer.
    And the Flying Spaghetti Monster will touch you with His Noodly Appendage and cure your delusions.
    What are you smoking? Must be some truly powerful stuff.

  • PeteWa

    it would be nice if the article went into a little more depth, but since the ability of the HIV to replicate was turned off, mutation would seemingly be a non-issue.

  • Preston White

    http://www.liveprayer.net/cure-for-cancer.php – Lets get real here. Who in their right mind is going to fight cancer with a disease like AIDS, what were those doctors smoking that day?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Good question r.

  • cole3244

    science is the answer, faith is the problem.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Hardly. The radical right GOP has been slashing basic research funding to the bone for as long as they’ve had the means to do so.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/343286/dropping-gop-s-green-eyeshades-james-pethokoukis

    We’re spending 30% less on basic research than the average for the last century, and proposed house budget cuts are another $250b over the next decade.

    http://thedemocraticdaily.com/2011/06/18/when-budget-cuts-become-unhealthy-gop-whacks-cancer-other-research/

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    That is fantastic news. To think that something so horrible and lethal can be turned into an effective tool to save lives.

  • perljammer

    Not exactly breaking news. The second of these two snippets, from a 2-year-old Penn press release (http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2011/08/t-cells/) refers to the use of modifed HIV to produce the special T-cells, 10 years ago. Significant strides in using the technique to target cancers have been made in the past couple of years.

    “After removing the patients’ cells, the team reprogrammed them to attack tumor cells by genetically modifying them using a lentivirus vector. The vector encodes an antibody-like protein, called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which is expressed on the surface of the T cells and designed to bind to a protein called CD19.”

    “The Penn team pioneered the use of the HIV-derived vector in a clinical trial in 2003 in which they treated HIV patients with an antisense version of the virus. That trial demonstrated the safety of the lentiviral vector used in the present work.”

  • Cody

    Take that you Republicans/ conservatives! BTW, more than 90% of HIV/AIDS cases in the world are among heterosexuals, that’s 27 million plus.

  • robert de niro

    Can doctor turns people with Hiv change the ‘bad’ virus into ‘good’ virus so people with hiv can live normally and immune to cancer?? Virus still inside their body but no harms for him/her and his family and his next generation

  • gowian

    They day the right accepts climate science, stops it’s war on PP, admits that blastocysts are not people with souls, denounces creationism/ID, admits that Jesus didn’t ride a dinosaur to work every morning, and collectively tells Sarah Palin that ignorance is nothing to be proud of is the day that you are 100% correct. That day is a long way away.

  • Sweetie

    Will the HIV mutate, though?

  • disqus_FQgrm4l56P

    isnt that how i am legend started?:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Legend_(film)

  • douglas01

    This is almost enough for me to believe in a higher power.

  • keirmeister

    You betray your own stupidity by failing to understand the rather simple point.

  • Pete

    That comment is beyond stupid.

  • keirmeister

    Today’s program has been brought to you by SCIENCE.

    (Take note, Right Wingers)

  • rextrek1

    amazing!!!

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