An article by Nicole Vowell and Lori Prichard for Ksl.com have highlighted another successful use of gene therapy to fight cancer.
Marshall Jensen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012. This form of cancer is particularly aggressive, so Marshall’s prognosis was not good.
He was involved in a number of treatments and procedures to fight the cancer, but it looked like cancer was winning. Jensen turned to an experimental treatment being tested by Dr. Carl June at Penn Medicine. The treatment uses the abilities of virus to attack cancer cells within the body.
Here is where it gets interesting — the virus in question is disabled variant of HIV. HIV is well known for it’s ability to cause AIDS that eventually kills people. This disabled variant of the virus can no longer cause AIDS, but it still has the ability to travel throughout the body.
HIV excels at inserting genes into cells, which makes it ideal at targeting cancer cells. Billions of T-cells were taken from Jensen’s body. The DNA from those cells was altered with the disabled variant of the HIV virus in the lab. Then the new cells were added to the body to hunt down cancer cells.
Early tests are promising, with 9 of the 12 patients in remission. It is just another example of next generation cancer treatments accomplishing what has been impossible with previous cancer treatments.
The treatment should be of use for other forms of cancer, including the extremely deadly pancreatic cancer.