Modified HIV kills cancer, a success story?


University of Pennsylvania devised an experimental treatment for advanced leukemia and conducted a human experiment in April. The treatment has resulted in promising results. In summary:

  • 3 adults had complete remission
  • 2 adults have been without symptoms for 2 years
  • 4 adults improved without remission
  • 1 patient is still uncertain
  • a 7 year-old had complete remission

The approach (or similar ones) are being used as experimental treatment at University of Pennsylvania, National Cancer Institute, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.


  1. Extract T-cells from patients. T-cells are lymphocytes (aka white blood cells) that fight viral infections.
  2. Infect T-cells with modified HIV. HIV is a retrovirus, capable of rewriting the infected host DNA.
  3. The modified HIV reprograms T-cells to attack B-cells. B-cells turn malignant in leukemia patients. Typically, B-cells fight bacterial infection in healthy individuals.
  4. Reprogrammed T-cells, called chimeric antigen receptor cells, are reintroduced into the patient’s blood.
  5. The T-cells attack CD-19, a protein on the surface of B-cells. The molecular recognition facilitates the specificity of the treatment.

The treatment is not without risks: treated patients suffer what oncologists call “shake and bake”:

Its medical name is cytokine-release syndrome, or cytokine storm, referring to the natural chemicals that pour out of cells in the immune system as they are being activated, causing fevers and other symptoms. The storm can also flood the lungs and cause perilous drops in blood pressure.

Cytokine storm is often deadly. Other drugs (e.g. steroids) can be used to assuage the physiological stress.


tldr Modified HIV reprograms mostly healthy white blood cells to attack other blood cells that normally turn cancerous. The treatment has promise, but comes with a fatal risk.





Pastry Chef (, software engineer (, and fitness enthusiast.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Read more:
Cocaine May Speed Up Aging

Recent research by scientists at Cambridge University suggests that cocaine may speed up the aging process of the brain. Abusers'...

Walk or run in rain? (Minute) Physics answers!

I remember at some point watching the Mythbusters episode where they "bust" that running in the rain will get you less wet...

Jet Lag makes you stupid! How to deal with it.

Flying is rarely enjoyable. Enclosed, highly-populated cabin aside, flying also entails jet lag. Experiencing jet lag can exhausting and uncomfortable for days....

Hear Bane preach about strawberries and fiber

Bane discusses strawberries, dietary fiber, and the importance of a healthy breakfast. Youtube Feature.