HIV Virus Used to Beat Cancer

HIV Virus Used to Beat Cancer

HIV Virus Used to Beat Cancer

An article by Nicole Vowell and Lori Prichard for 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.

Green Tea and Cancer Prevention

Green Tea Cancer Reduction

Green Tea Cancer Reduction

There have been numerous reports in the media about the health benefits of drinking green tea. From cancer reduction, to weight loss, to general health, green tea has been promoted as an all round wise health decision. But let’s drill a little deeper and look at the role of green tea in cancer prevention if any.

What is Green Tea

Green tea is simply leaves of Camellia sinensis plant that have undergone minimal oxidation during their harvesting and packing process. The tea has been popular in China and throughout many Asian countries for many thousands of years and has become more commonly drunk in Western countries in recent years, largely because of the oft-mentioned health benefits.

Green tea and green tea extracts can also be used in other food products and cosmetics where it has a potential positive effect also. The extracts from Green tea can be found in many commercial products, but sometimes the product is so diluted and processed that the mention of Green tea is more of a marketing exercise than it is a legitimate additive for health reasons. Rates of cancer are lower in many Asian countries than they are in the West, and many researchers and health specialists suggest this is largely because of the role green tea plays in the Asian diet.

Green Tea’s Health Benefits

Some of the often mentioned benefits of Green tea include:

  • A boost to the human immune system
  • A way to remove toxins in the body
  • Assists in the treatment of existing cancers in combination with traditional medicine
  • Improves energy levels and overall health
  • Can help you lose weight
  • Is a viable alternative therapy for cancer treatment

But are these benefits accurate?

At this stage there is some evidence that Green tea might reduce the risk of getting cancer, but there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that green tea can cure existing cancers.

What research has told us is that green tea can reduce the risk of heart disease and only certain types of cancer. When researchers looked at the weight reduction properties of green tea they found that while it does not raise the metabolic rate in humans, some green tea extracts with polyphenols have been shown to increase the rate of fat oxidation.

Green tea is packed full of flavinoids, much more so than many other foods that are considered extremely healthy. Flavinoids have a well documented anti-oxidative and anticarcinogenic function in the human body which is a good thing, but the levels of flavinoids can vary dramatically depending on the quality of the green tea.

Researchers have also identified an extract in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). That extract is also of great interest in cancer research and it’s exact role is still being established.

In the laboratory, cell studies have shown that some green tea extracts can prevent cancer cells from growing. The polyphenols and another substance called catechins have anti-oxidant properties and prevent the cancer cells growing. Keep in mind that these kinds of cell studies are very different to human studies which see if the chemicals in their diluted form can still play a role in stopping the growth of cancer.

The human studies we have seen so far are a mixed bag. In a meta study (which looks at the results of many other studies) in 2006 discovered that green tea can lower the risk of breast cancer. However other meta studies have not found enough evidence to back this up.

The same is true for bowel cancer, with one study suggesting that green or black tea played a role in the reduction of risk of bowel cancer, then another study finding no such link.

One Chinese study found that men who drank green tea on a daily basis had half the risk of stomach cancer as those who did not. A 2008 meta analysis which reviewed 43 of studies suggests that the evidence of reduced risk is only small. Many studies suggest it reduces risk while many claim to have found no link between green tea consumption and the reduction in risk of stomach or digestive tract cancers.

Other forms of cancer have no apparent link, with studies into prostate cancer seeing no link between green tea consumption and reduced risk.

One problem with the studies is that many don’t factor in lifestyle factors and investigate the affects of green tea on a narrow section of population. Additionally, in many cases the studies don’t detail the amount of green tea taken, nor the quality of the green tea (which plays a substantial role).

Some trials have shown more positive results though, and none of the trials have shown negative effects shown with the moderate consumption of green tea. Green tea in large quantities has the same negative and positive effects associated with the consumption of caffeine – an increase in anxiety or nervousness, trouble sleeping.

One of the trials that has shown more positive results was a 2012 study into the ability of a green tea extract to help treat cancer. Polyphenon E was given to 45 chronic leukemia patients who were not taking any other treatment for the disease. 30% of patients had a positive effect from the green tea and saw their lymph nodes shrinking and a reduction in the number of cells with leukemia. A small trial yes, but it shows some promise with green tea extracts.

Drinking Green Tea

Green tea is a very safe drink to consume. The only drawback with consuming green tea is the small amount of caffeine present that causes irritability, nervousness and more frequent urination.

Many health specialists suggest that you drink between 3 and 5 cups of green tea per day to obtain a health benefit. The level of caffeine is about 30% of the caffeine content of a cup of instant coffee. So 3 cups a day is the equivalent of 1 cup of coffee in the morning. You can obtain decaffeinated green tea, but some experts suggest that the additional processing to remove the caffeine may have a negative effect.

Green tea capsules are also available and you can even add green tea to food!

Before consuming green tea, if you are on any medications consult with your doctor to determine side effects. Green tea is mostly harmless, but for people with heart conditions, the additional caffeine may be a factor. Always consume green tea in moderation to avoid any issues with excessive caffeine.

In very rare cases, green tea can affect how well you absorb certain medications, so that is worth looking into before you begin consuming it.

Green Tea Claims

So there is the evidence. It may be helpful in preventing cancer, and green tea extracts may have a role in treating cancer, but the research is far from clear.

Be wary of any websites that are selling green tea as a cure for cancer or some kind of magical tool for weight loss. This is inaccurate.

The evidence that green tea consumption is a great source for anti-oxidants is much more clear and if you want to maintain good overall health as well as potentially reduce cancer risk, it is a great choice.

Leukemia Explained



Leukemia (leukaemia British English spelling) is a form of cancer that appears in the blood or bone marrow and is characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells. The term leukemia covers a wide spectrum of related diseases.

Leukemia itself is categorized as a hematological neoplasm, along with a number of other diseases that affect the blood, lymphoid system and bone marrow. The most common treatment for leukemia involves chemotherapy and medical radiation therapy, but hormone treatments are also used when treating leukemia. When people think of leukemia they tend to think of young children who are afflicted with this nasty disease, however 90% of all cases of leukemia are in adults. The good news is that with modern treatment children have a good chance of fully recovering. For adults who contract leukemia, the chances of survival aren’t as good as a child’s, but the success rate is still high compared to other more aggressive cancers.

Leukemia Classifications

There are a large number of classifications for leukemia, based on divisions on it’s severity and form. In terms of severity, there is acute leukemia and chronic leukemia.

Acute Leukemia manifests in a huge increase in the number of immature blood cells. Those cells crowd the bloodstream and the bone marrow is unable to produce healthy blood cells. This form of leukemia has a rapid progression and malignant cells can rapidly spread through the bloodstream into other organs. Acute leukemia is the type most commonly found in children.

Chronic Leukemia manifests in a buildup of mature white blood cells that are still abnormal. The abnormal white blood cells are produced at a fast rate, taking months or years to build up. This form of cancer takes longer to build up so doctors can sometimes wait until the buildup has reached a certain point to get the most effectiveness from available treatment methods. This form of cancer occurs in people of all ages, but mostly in older people.

Leukemia is also categorised according to the type of blood cell that is being affected, lymphocytic leukemias and myelogenous leukemias.

Lymphocytic Leukemias involve a cancerous change in the marrow cell that forms lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are infection fighting cells within the immune system.

Myelogenous Leukemias, sees a cancerous change in the marrow cells that go on to form red blood cells and some kinds of white blood cells.

Drilling further down, underneath these 4 main categories there are numerous subcategories which deal with specific variations of leukemia. Some of the more common variations of leukemia include:

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) which affects mostly older people (generally over 55) and very rarely affects children. Affects mostly men and has a 5 year survival rate of 75%. This an aggressive form of leukemia, is incurable and has a subtype called B-cell prolymphocytic leukemia, an even more aggressive disease.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common form of leukemia contracted by children however it can also be contracted by young adults and even older adults over 60. Luckily this form of leukemia responds well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment with 85% survival rates for children and 50% survival rates for adults.

Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) again occurs mainly in adults and rarely in children. The most common treatment is a drug called Gleevec (or Glivec in some countries) and it has a very high 90% 5 year survival rate.

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is mainly found in adults and is more common in males. AML has a 5 year survival rate of 40% and is treated with chemotherapy. Subtypes of AML include acute promyelocytic leukemia, acute myeloblastic leukemia, and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia.

Adult T-cell leukemia is actually caused by a virus called T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) which shares some similarities to HIV. HTLV infects CD4+ T-cells and replicates within them giving those infected cells a lot of strength and helps them propagate in huge numbers.

Hairy cell leukemia (HCL) is considered a subset of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, but has a number of difference to CLL. It mostly affects adult men, with 80% of HCL cases being male, and no cases of it affecting children have been reported. The disease is incurable but easily treated with a survival rate of over 90%

T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL) is one of the most aggressive forms of leukemia but is thankfully rare. This form affects mostly adult males, and rarely children. It affects mature T cells while nearly all other leukemias involve B cells. It is very difficult to treat and has a high mortality rate and survival time is usually measured in months.

Symptoms of Leukemia

Because leukemia damages the bone marrow due to the high numbers of immature white blood cells that are created, the blood clotting process is affected. That means that common signs of leukemia include being bruised easily, bleeding excessively and developing pinprick bleeds (tiny pin-prick haemorrhages that show on the skin after minor trauma).

Because the white blood cells are immature and malformed, the immune system may be greatly impaired. So if a person exhibits problems fighting off simple infections, leukemia may be the root cause. That can be re-occurrence of simple skin infections, oral infections or being unable to combat the simple cold. If the infection is one that most people usually fight off in days, but it lingers for weeks or months, leukemia could be the root cause because it is suppressing your immune system.

The red blood cell deficiency tht comes with leukemia also leads to anemia, and all of the related problems caused by that.

There are various other symptoms reported by leukemia sufferers, ranging from an overall feeling of being constantly rundown, to constant fatigue, symptoms similar to the common cold, night sweats and fevers. Patients have also reported nausea which is caused by the impact of leukemia on the liver and spleen.

In cases where the leukemia cells have invaded the central nervous system, some patients report headaches as a common symptom. Unfortunately many of the symptoms associated with leukemia can be attributable to many different kinds of illnesses so it’s often difficult to detect until the correct tests are done.

Using a blood sample, leukemia is usually very easily spotted due to the large amount of white blood cells found in the sample. Usually many of those cells are malformed or dysfunctional, so physicians can also check the condition of white blood cells.

However in some cases leukemia patients do not have a high white blood cell count that can be seen in a regular blood test, that condition is called aleukemia. The bone marrow still contains cancerous white blood cells but they remain in the marrow instead of entering into the bloodstream in great quantities.

Leukemia Causes

There are multiple possible causes for the various forms of leukemia and research continues to help us understand the reasons for this illness. At this point we understand some of the possible causes for some forms of leukemia, but for many forms of leukemia we are still trying to understand what was the root cause.

Mutations in the DNA are thought to be responsible for many forms of leukemia. Research has shown that mutations can trigger leukemia by deactivating tumor suppression genes which allows the mutations to occur. DNA mutations can occur because of exposure to hazardous chemicals or radiation. Some of the chemicals include benzene and even alkylating chemotherapy agents that may have been used to treat previous cancers.

Viruses like the T-lymphotropic virus can cause leukemia n adults. Other possible chemical causes include tobacco, petrochemicals and even some chemical hair dyes.

According to research, whilst helping prevent some other forms of cancer dramatically, eating a healthy diet has little effect on leukemia.

Treating Leukemia

There are a wide variety of techniques which are used to treat leukemia and because the illness manifests in so many different ways, only certain treatment methods may be of use for certain forms of the disease.

High dose chemotherapy is one of the most commonly used treatments for leukemia and has proven very successful in many forms of the illness. Radiotherapy is also used to treat certain forms of leukemia.

Bone marrow transplantation treatments may also be used in some instances to help remove marrow that has been affected by the leukemia and to help the patient generate healthy blood cells.

Cancer drugs like Gleevec have also been used with great success in treating certain forms of leukemia. With advances in modern technology, leukemia survival rates have greatly improved and the outlook is good for most leukemia patients.

Novartis Loses Indian Cancer Drug Case

Novartis Patent Case

Novartis Patent Case

In what could be an important development in the sale of generic anti-cancer medication, Swiss drug company Novartis has lost a case attempting to win patent protection for one of it’s cancer drugs in India. The Leukemia drug, Glivec was a minor variation on previous cancer drugs developed by the company for sale in India.

The decision is a blow for the company, but a win for local manufacturers of generic leukemia medications. In India most brand name cancer drugs are unaffordable for most of the population so the manufacture of cheaper generic cancer medications is of great importance. Local companies including Cipla Ltd and Natco Pharma sell generic medications at about 10% the price of the brand name medications and the decision is considered a great win for them.

The Indian market for pharmaceuticals is one of the fastest growing in the world and this decision by the supreme court will have major ramifications for large multi-national corporations who were seeking to take advantage of the growing middle class developing in India.

Many large pharmaceutical companies seek to take advantage of “evergreening”, a process where they make tiny adjustments to their brand name medicines to retain ownership of patents, create new patents or extend the ownership of patents. In this case Novartis made a minor change to a Leukemia drug, rebranded it and attempted to prevent manufacturers of generic medicines from making a similar product.
The supreme court in India decided that Glivec did not deserve patented status because it was simply an amended version of a known compound. The drug has received patents in over 40 countries throughout the world. India is hostile towards evergreening of patents and has been notably tough on companies who seek to extend patents this way.

In India most people earn about $1 a day so that makes the brand name medicines unfordable. The managing director of Novartis claims that the court decision means pharmaceutical companies will be cautious about investing in India, and not release new medications there.

Ranjit Shahani, managing director of Novartis India Ltd told the media: “The intellectual property ecosystem in India is not very encouraging”. Navartis claims that as many as 16’000 people in India use Glivec, however for a country of 1.2 billion that is a small figure considering 300’000 people in the USA use the drug.

Other brand name drug companies have also suffered from adverse decisions in the Indian legal system with Pfizer’s cancer drug Sutent losing it’s patented status last year. The company is fighting to have the decision reversed.