Modified HIV Saves 7-Year-Old Leukemia Patient

January 27, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. relapse (n.) [ri-laps, ree-laps]– [in medicine] to return to a past state of a disease after improving health
Example: She had a relapse of cancer after five years of being cancer-free.

2. terminal (adj.) [tur-muh-nl]– [in medicine] leading to death
Example: She is hopeful even though her disease is at its terminal stage.

3. prone (adj.) [prohn]– likely to do or to have something
Example She is prone to having flu because of her weak immune system.

4. antibody (n.) [an-ti-bod-ee]– a substance in the body that acts as a defense from diseases and from substances such as viruses and bacteria
Example: She easily gets sick because her body cannot produce enough antibodies.

5. injected (adj.) [in-jekt]– to force or introduce a substance into a body part
Example: The medicines were injected into the patient and took effect after two hours.

Read the text below.

A team of doctors from the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia was able to save the life of a seven-year-old leukemia patient using a genetically modified human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

For two years, Emily Whitehead, the young patient, had been under chemotherapy. Despite the treatment, she still suffered from two relapses. The doctors later declared that her cancer was in the terminal stage.

In February last year, the doctors decided to subject Emily to an experimental treatment using a genetically modified HIV.

HIV is the cause of AIDS, a disease which weakens the immune system of the body, making the body prone to getting diseases.

In the case of Emily, doctors removed genes from the HIV responsible for developing AIDS. The doctors then added a new gene to the HIV that helps antibodies target cancer cells.

The therapy started with doctors removing millions of Emily’s natural antibodies. Afterwards, the safe HIV with the cancer-fighting gene was introduced to the antibodies, transforming the antibodies. Lastly, these boosted antibodies were injected back into Emily’s body so they could combat the cancer cells.

According to the doctors, the experiment had great results. There were no signs that the patient developed AIDS. More importantly, the boosted cells remain in the patient’s body after the treatment, thereby preventing a relapse. However, the experiment will only be considered successful if these positive results remain for several years.

Because of the promising results, doctors believe the therapy might someday replace the painful bone marrow transplant, the last option for terminal cancer patients.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think the therapy will be safe to use in the future? Why or why not?
·         Would you encourage someone you know to undergo a risky therapy like the one in the article? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Do you approve of genetic modification or the changing of human genes?
·         Do you think genetic modification is the best way to solve people’s health problems? Why or why not?


January 27, 2013