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Man Treated for Cancer with HIV

Update Date: Nov 13, 2014 02:44 PM EST

A 30-year old man is now cancer free thanks to treatment using the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

Marshall Jensen, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2012, received an experimental treatment involving HIV, The Independent reported.  Jensen was treated at Penn Medicine by Dr Carl June after searching nearly two years for a cure. Dr June's team has so far administered the treatment to 30 children and adults, of which 19 are in remission.

The treatment involves the use of disabled HIV but retains the virus's feature to replicate its DNA in the host cells. Explaining the treatment, The Week reported that healthy T-cells which are part of the body's immune system are reprogrammed with HIV and inserted into the body. These cells multiply and target cancer cells, to kill them. As the virus is deactivated it does not pose any risk of causing AIDS.

Jensen returned to his neighborhood in Utah this week, to a rapturous home-coming organized for him by his neighbors.

"We were calling it our Hail Mary pass. It felt right. We didn't know how we were going to get out there, what we were going to do, but it worked. By God's grace I was able to come back," Jensen said, according to Daily Mail.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia leaves adults with a survival chance of 50 percent. Though more common in childhood, children have higher chances of survival with chemotherapy. The biological therapy with HIV may not have the side effects of traditional chemotherapy but experts warn that it can have disastrous consequences and may suit all cancer patients.

Some of the consequences experts warn about are cytokine storm, an immune system reaction which can cause people to stop breathing, and organ damage. Given that the treatment is in experimental stage, it is yet to attain acceptably.

That has however not deterred Dr June and his team, who are planning to conduct trials to treat pancreatic cancer next year.

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