A “Cure” for Leukemia?
December 23, 2012
While leukemia can be treated, it can rarely be cured. However, with recent advances in the medical field, a new possibility for a cure has been discovered.
Recently Emma Whitehead was cured of her leukemia thanks to modified HIV. After chemotherapy, the seven year old relapsed and her parents were left with very few options. They chose to use an experimental treatment which had not been used on acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or on anybody as young as Emma.
In this experimental treatment, doctors genetically modified HIV and used it to alter some of Emma’s T cells to make them attack her B cells, then allowed the sample of cells to grow before injecting them. By injecting Emma with the altered T cells, the B cells that were responsible for the disease were wiped out.
Two months after the procedure, Emma was deemed cancer-free. However, the procedure is not without its faults. Emma experienced fever and near death post-treatment. Additionally, patients who receive the treatment are highly susceptible to other illnesses as their B cells, which usually help to fight infection, die out.
The treatment, while flawed, has worked on three patients with chroniclymphocytic leukemia in the past, and was recently used on a group of 12 people- 9 of whom responded positively to the treatment. This could be the first step to a successful cure for leukemia.