According to DailyMail, Marshall Jensen of Utah, was one of 30 leukemia patients to undergo a trial treatment at Penn Medicine recently, in which white blood cells are implanted with a harmless form of HIV programmed to target and kill cancer.
The 30-year-old married father of one has so far responded well to the treatment and is now cancer-free for the first time in years. The connection between leukemia and HIV was first discovered in 2006, when an HIV-positive man named Timothy Wood was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
After receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation, Wood’s cancer went into remission and the HIV disappeared from his system making him the first man to ever be fully cured of the virus.
Since then, Dr June (doctor that treated Marshall) and his team have been working vigilantly on developing a HIV-based treatment for leukemia and this October, published a study showing the therapy’s success on 30 cancer patients.
The patients who received the treatment had billions of T-cells extracted from their body, which were taken to a lab and implanted with deactivated HIV. The ‘serial killer’ cells are then put back into the body to fight and kill cancer, and remain dormant until the cancer reappears.
While the idea of receiving a dose of HIV may seem scary to some, Dr June says there’s nothing to fear about the stripped-down virus used in the treatment. ‘It’s a disabled virus, but it retains the one essential feature of HIV, which is the ability to insert new genes into cells,’ Dr June explained.
Of the 30 leukemia patients who received the treatment, comprised of five adults and 25 children, 23 are still alive and 19 are in remission. Seven-year-old Emma Whitehead was the first child to receive the treatment in 2012, and has been cancer-free for two years now.
Dr June and his team are now looking at using the HIV treatment to attack other forms of cancers, and will be starting trials this summer for pancreatic cancer patients.