Man's Cancer Knocked Out —Using HIV as a Tool

Disabled version of virus puts Marshall Jensen's leukemia in remission
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2014 11:44 AM CST
Man's Cancer Knocked Out —Using HIV as a Tool
A treatment using "disabled" HIV helped put a man's cancer in remission.   (Photo: Business Wire)

A Utah man's leukemia is in remission after facing an unusual enemy: HIV. Marshall Jensen spent years trying to find a treatment for his acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to little avail. Finally, he met with a team at the University of Pennsylvania, where recent work has achieved stunning results against the disease. The researchers used an unusual technique to address the leukemia, removing billions of T-cells from Jensen's body and treating their DNA with a harmless form of HIV. "It felt right," Jensen tells KSL. "We didn't know how we were going to get out there, what we were going to do, but it worked. By God's grace I was able to come back."

Dr. Carl June explains the treatment: "It's a disabled virus," he says, "but it retains the one essential feature of HIV, which is the ability to insert new genes into cells.” The treatment prompted the T-cells, returned to Jensen's body, to begin identifying and destroying cancer on their own; in short, after "reprogramming," they become "leukemia-specific killers," June says in a University of Pennsylvania video. The reprogrammed cells then enter a dormant phase, waking up if the cancer comes back, KSL reports. Jensen is far from the only success story in what some are calling the "fifth pillar" of cancer treatment, reports. A recent study showed a 90% remission rate among those receiving similar treatment. (More leukemia stories.)

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