A man who was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of cancer two years ago is now amazingly in remission thanks to a revolutionary treatment that involved receiving an infusion of the HIV virus.
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.
Marshall, his wife Amanda and their young son Kezman, had spent two years travelling around the States hoping to find a cure which was diagnosed a year after the couple got married.
They eventually met Dr Carl June at Penn Medicine in Pennsylvania, who has spent 20 years working on a breakthrough experimental treatment using HIV. Dr June enrolled Marshall onto the trial and the results have been nothing short of miraculous.
As well as Marshall’s fantastic news, of the 30 leukaemia patients who received the treatment – comprised of five adults and 25 children – 23 are still alive and 19 are in remission.
Marshall told local TV news: “We didn’t know how we were going to get out there, what we were going to do, but it worked”
Last Thursday, a healthier Jensen returned to his home town to a surprise homecoming celebration. The connection between leukemia and HIV was first discovered in 2006, when an HIV-positive man named Timothy Wood was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
After receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation, Timothy’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 and his team have been working on developing a HIV-based treatment for leukaemia 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.
He explained: “It’s a disabled virus, but it retains the one essential feature of HIV, which is the ability to insert new genes into cells.”
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.
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