Gene Therapy Used to Treat Cancer of the Blood

by Kelly Hamilton ,  Green Answers | 2011-11-29

A new breakthrough in health technology is showing positive signs in effectively treating cancer.  Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are looking to combat cancer by building an immune system perfectly geared to do just that.  The new process involves using the body’s own defense system to kill cancer cells—similar to the way the body is able to fight off infections and diseases and better protect itself against instances of disease in the future.

William Ludwig was 65 years old when he realized that his chances of recovering from his chronic lymphocytic leukemia were looking bleak.  Chemotherapy had stopped being effective, and a transplant of bone marrow was not in the cards for him.  It was then that Ludwig heard of a brand new therapy in the works at the University of Pennsylvania.  The experiment is a gene therapy which employs the use of deactivated HIV-1 (the virus that causes AIDS) being injected into patients suffering with cancer, with the hopes that the replicating qualities of the HIV-1 virus will lend itself to combatting the ever spreading cancerous cells.

Without being certain of the outcome, Ludwig signed on for the experiment that would hopefully succeed where all the others had failed. He described the move as a momentous last act—a type of “Hail Mary” for his life. It was the first time anyone used such a method as treatment…and, for William Ludwig, it worked.

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