Doctors Cure Cancer with Modified HIV?

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a video passed around social media about a little girl who recovered from leukemia.  While that alone is cause for celebration, the truly amazing part is how it was done.

According to the doctors in the video, they injected the girl with a modified strain of HIV, the virus which causes AIDs.

You can understand why a story like that would make headlines.  But is it true?  And how does this pertain to wheelchair users?  We’ll get to that in a moment.  First, let’s take a look at the full story.

Curing Emily Whitehead

At the age of 5, Emily “Emma” Whitehead was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).  ALL is the most common cancer among children.

Initially, she was told that through chemotherapy, she had an 85{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79} chance of being cured.  However, when her leukemia relapsed a few months later, her chances went down to 30{4484a610ba12ad46baec767347073917e486819a83b2d744ced0feda89144e79}.

Right before she was about to have a bone marrow transplant, her cancer relapsed once more, leaving her unable to go through with the procedure.  At this point, chemotherapy had stopped working.

Things were looking grim.

It was in this dire moment that her parents decided to try a highly experimental form of treatment, one that would involve injecting her cells with a virus.  This virus, essentially a modified strain of HIV, was engineered specifically to attack the cancerous cells.

Emma went through the treatment, the cancer went into remission, and she has been cancer free for over a year!  This is the story that has everyone talking, and for good reason.  But what’s the whole story?

Behind the Curtain

Many people on the internet have been saying that Emma was cured from cancer after being injected with HIV.  This isn’t entirely true.

What actually happened is that doctors removed T-cells from Emma’s body.  They then took these cells and treated them with a heavily modified virus.  While this virus comes from the HIV strain, all harmful effects were removed.

The reason this type of virus was chosen is for its ability to slip through the body’s defenses, infected cells it comes into contact with.  In this case, the virus was designed to specifically destroy cancerous cells in the same way HIV damages white blood cells.

Once Emma’s T-cells were treated with the “virus”, those cells were injected back into her body.  So was Emma injected with HIV? No.

But that doesn’t make her story any less wonderful.

What Does This Mean for the Rollx Vans’ Audience?

While leukemia is a devastating condition, it doesn’t necessarily leave people in need of a wheelchair accessible van.  However, the process used in Emma’s treatment could theoretically be used for other conditions.

Many forms of paralysis are caused by damaged or malfunctioning cells.  If, say, a virus was programmed to target those cells in the same way this other virus targeted cancer cells, a person could regain motor function.

We might be speculating a bit, but any treatment that succeeds in such a huge way is worth mentioning.

Were you familiar with Emma’s story? What potential do you think this treatment has for the future?

« Back to Blog