Main | Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Battling Leukemia With HIV

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania say they are encouraged by the early results in an experimental leukemia treatment that uses a "disabled form of HIV."
To perform the treatment, doctors remove millions of the patient’s T-cells — a type of white blood cell — and insert new genes that enable the T-cells to kill cancer cells. The technique employs a disabled form of H.I.V. because it is very good at carrying genetic material into T-cells. The new genes program the T-cells to attack B-cells, a normal part of the immune system that turn malignant in leukemia. The altered T-cells — called chimeric antigen receptor cells — are then dripped back into the patient’s veins, and if all goes well they multiply and start destroying the cancer. The T-cells home in on a protein called CD-19 that is found on the surface of most B-cells, whether they are healthy or malignant. A sign that the treatment is working is that the patient becomes terribly ill, with raging fevers and chills — a reaction that oncologists call “shake and bake,” Dr. June said.
That "shake and bake" side-effect sounds much like what happens to many people when they first become infected with HIV. (Tipped by JMG reader Robert)

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