A reprogrammed version of the virus that causes AIDS was used by doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to wipe out a little girl’s terminal leukemia.
According to The New York Times, 6-year-old Emma Whitehead didn’t have much longer to live when the radical and untested therapy was pitched to her parents. But after two relapses, they’d exhausted all other options.
So, using modified HIV that disables transmission of the virus, doctors loaded in up with custom T-cells that reprogrammed her immune system to fight off her leukemia.
Though it worked, Whitehead wasn’t out of the woods after the treatment, which caused her to become horribly ill, swollen and running a fever of 105 degrees, according to the Times.
After doctors administered an arthritis drug on a long-shot hope, she managed to recover. Her fever and inflammation fell and the Times says that Whitehead started to recover.
That was in April 2011. Today, Whitehead is much more healthy and happy thanks to the therapy. Doctor’s haven’t said she’s cured just yet, but things are looking up — for Whitehead and the rest of the world.
Researchers have achieved at least two other complete remissions with the experimental therapy, and four others who’ve received it experienced improvements in their condition. The treatment is currently being developed further by pharmaceutical company Novartis, the report added.
“I think this is a major breakthrough,” Dr. Ivan Borrello, a cancer specialist at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the Times.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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