I saw a link to the story about HIV as a treatment for cancer. It sounds crazy. And it is far off the mark. Check out the additional information you need to understand the story.
We’ve recently noticed an inspiring short film circulating on the internet about how doctors in the US have apparently cured a child of leukaemia by “injecting her with HIV”.
But while the actual science behind this story is fascinating, the treatment is still at an extremely experimental stage and has only been tested in a handful of patients.
And while we’re always keen to welcome exciting experimental cancer treatments, we also want to clear up a few misconceptions about what the research actually involved.
To be absolutely clear, the doctors in the video did NOT inject HIV – nor a “deadly disease” – into a child.
What was actually done was an attempt to stimulate an immune response. Her own immune cells were extracted from her, manipulated and reinjected. Reprogrammed T cells are “injected back into the patient, where they grow and multiply, creating an army of killer cells to fight the disease.” This piece notest that the girl looks like she is part of a treatment trial that has shown some promise. But it has significant risk. At least the trial are being published (as science should work, contrary to end run treatments like Burzynski’s antineoplastons). But the mention of HIV is very misleading!
In fact, the researchers are using a type of virus called a lentivirus to reprogramme the T cells. This family of viruses – of which HIV is a member – are particularly skilled at sneaking into cells and embedding their genetic code within the cell’s DNA. Unsurprisingly, this makes them a good vehicle for smuggling in the genetic instruction telling T cells to attack the cancer.
No HIV was injected. And the idea that HIV is a treatment for cancer is VERY WRONG. Don’t believe it. Always double check a story that sounds outrageous or too good to be true. It probably is. That’s why we are here.