Philadelphia doctors say they have successfully cured a little girl of cancer by using HIV, reports ABC News.
A spokesperson at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said doctors first cured Emma Whitehead of her leukemia by using the treatment last December and that she is still in remission and cancer-free.
“She is in complete remission, she has no leukemia in her body by any test that we can do, even the most sensitive tests,” Dr. Stephan Grupp said.
The treatment works by injecting a harmless, modified version of HIV into the patient’s immune cells, training their immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. The idea is to “fight fire with fire.”
“It’s a disabled virus,” Dr. Carl June said. “But it retains the one essential feature of HIV which is the ability to insert new genes into cells.”
The treatment was first tested on just three patients, but has grown to more than 20. The latest results show that 80 percent of the children with leukemia have been completely cured. The success for adults, however, is lower for adults.
Doctors say their next step is to begin trials using the same treatment to battle other cancers.