12/11/2014 07:16 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Dad Recovers From Cancer After HIV Treatment


A dad is recovering from cancer after being treated with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

Father-of-one Marshall Jensen, 30, was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of leukaemia two years ago, so agreed to become one of 30 patients to take part in a a treatment trial.

This involved implanting his white blood cells with a harmless form of HIV, programmed to target and kill cancer.

Incredibly, Marshall responded so well that he is now now cancer-free for the first time in years.

Marshall, his wife Amanda and their young son Kezman, had spent two years travelling around the States hoping to find a cure for the dad's cancer, which was diagnosed a year after the couple got married.

They eventually met Dr Carl June at Penn Medicine in Pennsylvania, who has spent 20 years working on a breakthrough experimental treatment using the HIV virus.

Dr June enrolled Marshall onto the trial and the results have been nothing short of miraculous.

As well as Marshall's fantastic news, of the 30 leukaemia patients who received the treatment - comprised of five adults and 25 children - 23 are still alive and 19 are in remission.

Marshall told local TV news: "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."

Last Thursday (November 6), a healthier Jensen returned to his home town to a surprise homecoming celebration.

The connection between leukemia and HIV was first discovered in 2006, when an HIV-positive man named Timothy Wood was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.

After receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation, Timothy's cancer went into remission and the HIV disappeared from his system making him the first man to ever be fully cured of the virus.

Since then, Dr June and his team have been working on developing a HIV-based treatment for leukaemia and, this October, published a study showing the therapy's success on 30 cancer patients.

The patients who received the treatment had billions of T-cells extracted from their body, which were taken to a lab and implanted with deactivated HIV.

The 'serial killer' cells are then put back into the body to fight and kill cancer, and remain dormant until the cancer reappears.

While the idea of receiving a dose of HIV may seem scary to some, Dr June says there's nothing to fear about the stripped-down virus used in the treatment.

He explained: "It's a disabled virus, but it retains the one essential feature of HIV, which is the ability to insert new genes into cells."

Seven-year-old Emma Whitehead was the first child to receive the treatment in 2012, and has been cancer-free for two years now.

Dr June and his team are now looking at using the HIV treatment to attack other forms of cancers, and will be starting trials this summer for pancreatic cancer patients.

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