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Biotech Science

The Cure for Cancer Might be: HIV 668

Posted by Hemos
from the probably-not dept.
RGautier writes "Wired News has published that Scientists have successfully modified the AIDS-causing HIV in such a way that it can attack metasticized melanoma (cancer cells). The impact of genetic research on cancer research is in and of itself amazing. To mix this with the strategy of using one strong enemy against another is brilliance! Research will continue, obviously, but they are already reporting success on living creatures." Just think: between HIV and carrots we'll be all set.
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The Cure for Cancer Might be: HIV

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  • by geoffspear (692508) * on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:26PM (#11668992) Homepage
    If you're gotten rid of 80% of the virus, you might not want to market it as "derived from HIV". Really.
  • battlefield (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SpongeBobLinuxPants (840979) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:28PM (#11669013) Homepage
    Do we really want to turn our bodies into a battlefield for germ warfare?
  • Re:battlefield (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ironsides (739422) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:29PM (#11669030) Homepage Journal
    You assume it isn't already. Remember what White Bloodcells do? Along with anti-biotics and vacines? All this is doing is adding in another weapon to the arsenal.
  • Amazing! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The-Bus (138060) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:29PM (#11669034)
    I saw this on Google News this morning and wondered why Slashdot hadn't picked up on it already. As soon as I read the headline and the article, I began to wonder... How safe is this to do this research?

    I'm not talking about the safety of recipients once this goes into the real-world (although that can be alarming), but about the research itself.

    I'm pretty far removed from science in any practical setting, but what are the procedures for this kind of research? I've seen too many movies like 28 Days Later to not imagine some accident or oversight to cause some sort of mutant airborne HIV.

    Also, does HIV even infect mice? I know there's a human/ape HIV and a feline HIV but I had not hear of mice HIV. Think of some sewer rat biting you...

    That's just my mid-day alarmist self. Note I'm not against the research, just wondering about it...
  • by reporter (666905) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:33PM (#11669090) Homepage
    I greatly admire the scientists, doctors, and nurses who are pursing research to convert HIV into a cancer fighter. Such research is dangerous for the researchers because they are working with live HIV.

    Even doctors and nurses who are not focused on research but who are focused on caring for HIV patients are, in my opinion, heros. They are willing to accept the risks that others shun. There have been occasional stories of nurses who accidentally prick themselves with needles used on HIV patients. Memory tells me that nurses dealing with high-risk patients are prescribed AZT in order to prevent infection. Can anyone confirm my memory?

  • Re:battlefield (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imag0 (605684) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:34PM (#11669097) Homepage
    Do we really want to turn our bodies into a battlefield for germ warfare?

    Yes. You better believe it.

    After seeing my mother die from cancer I would give anything to make sure no one else would ever have to go through what me and my sister did.

    In short, hell yeah. Bring it on.
  • Maybe I'm mistaken, but don't we use viruses as vectors all the time? Like in vaccines?
  • by Marcus Erroneous (11660) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:35PM (#11669123) Homepage
    "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" seems like a good fit in this instance. Then again, your mileage may vary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:36PM (#11669129)
    I don't really think it would make sense to downplay any involvement with HIV. Lets say they decide to call it something else and at a later point in time it's "revealed" that people are being strategically infected with HIV... even in a reduced state... don't you think people would be outraged that this information was withheld? I think the natural reaction from most of the public (through ignorance, of course) would be "why would they keep it from us... is there something they didn't want us to know?"

    Best to be as open as possible right from the start to avoid any misconceptions. (Or media backlash.)
  • by sameerdesai (654894) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:37PM (#11669139)
    Huh? And the flu shot you take is not a virus eh?
  • by cluke (30394) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:37PM (#11669145)
    Are you for real? You think somebody is going to invent a cure for cancer, and the FDA would dare ban it? If you thought the black market for viagra was bad, it would be nothing on this.
  • by Freexe (717562) <serrkr@tznvy.pbz> on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:38PM (#11669148) Homepage

    If you have inoperable brain cancer and given the option to die in about a month or a 1% chance at the treatment mutating into HIV...

  • oh dear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by St. Arbirix (218306) <matthew.townsend ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:40PM (#11669171) Homepage Journal
    Wired News has published that Scientists have successfully modified the AIDS-causing HIV in such a way that it can attack metasticized melanoma (cancer cells).

    So "scientists" is capitalized now?

    I guess that's fair, but not everyone believes in science so it might upset some people.
  • Check you gramm'er (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:42PM (#11669195)
    Jesus, dude, your spelling is *atrocious*. I don't know if I'd trust a cure from someone who can't spell.
  • by aprilsound (412645) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:45PM (#11669233) Homepage
    The FDA would have to be very politicaly sensitive and short sighted to make such a call. It's not as though the FDA doesn't understand disease, after all, yogurt contains active bacterial cultures, but they are good for you, so I don't see how a virus, much less one that has to be sexualy transmitted and has had 80% of its genetic material removed (TFA), would be too big a hurdle.
    As long as they arent foolish enough to market it as modified HIV.
  • by Speare (84249) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:47PM (#11669263) Homepage Journal
    you might not want to market it as "derived from HIV"

    Why is that, exactly? Think of the other dreaded word which invokes a guaranteed knee-jerk reaction from just about anyone: radiation. What's the worst thing you can put in your body? Poison. Our current treatments for cancer involve heavy doses of radiation and heavy doses of toxic chemicals.

    As a society, we're pretty familiar with using some amazingly deadly tactics against cancer, and yet, you don't see a whole lot of healthy people screaming about their exposure to those deadly glowing, poisonous cancer patients.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:50PM (#11669303) Homepage
    Such research is dangerous for the researchers because they are working with live HIV.

    Working with HIV is actually a lot less dangerous than a lot of other infectious agents. HIV is fairly hard to contract, compared to airborne or contact-transmitted diseases. For example, it dies pretty quickly when exposed to plain old air. It's only HIV's incurability and eventual fatality that makes it so hazardous.

    Memory tells me that nurses dealing with high-risk patients are prescribed AZT in order to prevent infection. Can anyone confirm my memory?

    That seems pretty unlikely, because AZT is pretty damn toxic. You wouldn't want to take it just as a precaution. It is true that health care workers who've been exposed (e.g. needle prick from an HIV patient) go on a short-term drug cocktail intended to weaken the virus enough for their immune systems to handle it before it gains a foothold.

  • Re:Amazing! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GoofyBoy (44399) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:51PM (#11669311) Journal
    >I've seen too many movies like 28 Days Later to not imagine some accident or oversight to cause some sort of mutant airborne HIV.

    28 Days Later had zombies. Is that what you are afraid of? Zombies?

    You want scary? Take a look at the front section of any major newspaper and do some indepth research into its topic. Zombies are an entertaining distraction in comparision.
  • by Macrat (638047) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:59PM (#11669399)
    Using one bad thing against another bad thing doesn't always work out too well.
  • by NitroWolf (72977) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:15PM (#11669607)
    If you're gotten rid of 80% of the virus, you might not want to market it as "derived from HIV". Really.

    But does it really matter to the people who would benefit from this?

    Doctor: You're going to die from cancer. However, we have this cure that uses the HIV virus. It probably won't kill you.

    Patient: Hmm, so you're telling me I'm going to die painfully from cancer, or I can take my chances with HIV with pretty damned good results. Let me think... Let me think... Nope, I think I'll take the cancer. Thanks though.

    If you're going to die anyway, you're going to grasp at just about any straw you can, even HIV.

    Trying to hide the fact that it's HIV derived would just be ASKING for lawsuits out the wazoo.
  • by Jane_Dozey (759010) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:15PM (#11669611)
    Why not engineer different viruses to attack different cancers? This way we could deal with less variables (ie: lots of different cells being attacked while others being left unharmed) and still get good results.

    I would much prefer being treated with a virus if I knew it had one function and did it well, rather than 100 different funtions that it may or may not do well.
  • by SpamJunkie (557825) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:25PM (#11669742)
    Kinda like Botox, the difference being that most people don't know what botulin toxin is to begin with, although the "toxin" part is a big clue. I have a feeling it'll be called something like HumaImmunex and most people won't actually make the connection to HIV.
  • thats a typical conspiracy theory idea - along the lines of "they cured polio, so they lost out big on all the treatment money!"

    Well, that may be true for the dozens of pharmaceutical companies that made polio-reducing drugs, but Lederle, the company which marketed the (oral) polio vaccine made KILLING by selling 3 or 4 doses to all 6 billion people on the planet!

    Same thing for an HIV cure/vaccine. Dozens of companies would no longer have a source of income, but the ONE company that creates (and patents) the vaccine will guarentee to sell 50 billion units over the next 40 years (assuming, like most vaccines, that it takes a few doses and booster shots to achieve the desired effect).

    Plus, as a medical student, I happen to know for a FACT that people in my school are working on HIV vaccines. "They" aren't preventing this type of research.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:28PM (#11669796)
    The popularity of quack cancer remedies is directly tied to the general public not realizing this. If a cure could be proven to work--no matter if it were some kind of wonder-herb or "drug" or hitting yourself in the head with a brick--then not only would the FDA throw open the doors, but the guy who discovered it and the company who produced it would make a lot of money. You cannot expect to ban a cancer cure and have it stay banned. If plutonium was shown to cure cancer, then you'd just have to get your therapy on a military base.

    It doesn't work in reverse: because people selling fake cancer remedies are making money, that DOESN'T mean their product works. Please, please, please, do your research.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:32PM (#11669844)
    The field of cancer medicine is not a pleasant one. It is understood that some of the drugs are very dangerous, such as Rituxan, a drug whose web site claims that deaths have been reported within 24 hours of its administration. The risks of the drug will be the same whether or not it is an HIV derivative. In the commercialization process, they will conduct research to determine how or if the link to HIV should be disclosed. I'm not even sure how necessary that will be because we're not talking about a lifestyle drug here; cancer treatment is serious, risky business.
  • by cfortin (23148) <chris@fortins.org> on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:32PM (#11669855)

    That's what I thought, when I was working on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance ( NMR ) which was changed to Magnetic Resonance Imaging ( MRI ) because too many people were afraid of the word nuclear.

  • by demachina (71715) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:39PM (#11669935)
    Joking aside I see this is research is being done at UCLA presumably with public funding or maybe charitable donations.

    I was just wondering if anyone has an educated guess how many medical and drug breakthroughs are happening in publicly funded institutions, the NIH being another example, and how many are actually developed inside the big drug and healthcare companies using private funding.

    I ask because in the face of the extraordinarily high cost of drugs in the U.S., HIV drugs in particular, the usual retort by Republicans is drug companies need those huge profits to do groundbreaking R&D on new breakthrough drugs. Drug companies have the highest profits and profit margins of ANY major industrial sector in the U.S. or at least they did before they started getting hammered when it turned out drugs they were pushing like Zoloft and Vioxx are potentially dangerous.

    I'm also curious how much of the privately funded drug company research is funded by the public through tax breaks, grants etc.

    To put it another way how much do drug companies profit on breakthroughs from publicly funded research.

    Another question what is the current ratio between drug company spending on advertising versus R&D. The never ending saturation TV ads, designed to compel American consumers to demand drugs from their doctors they may or may not need, must be costing billions and all those advertising costs which do no one any actual good are being tacked on to the cost of drugs and making seniors in particular pay through the nose for saturation advertising campaigns instead of drugs or drug R&D.

    My three step plan to drive down the cost of drugs and healthcare:

    A. Outlaw drug advertising just like ads for cigarettes and hard liquor. Its totally inappropriate and disceptive to advertise drugs using slick ads, like soda pop or underarm deodorant. Confine them to advertising to doctors and then only in the form of factual dissertations on the pros and cons of the drug, audited by a 3rd party for accuracy.

    B. Mandate that drugs and publicly funded health breakthroughs be provided to the public at cost or with a regulated profit margin.

    C. Rather than outlawing U.S. agencies, like Medicare, from negotiating fair prices for wholesale drug purchases, make it law that those agencies MUST negotiate fair wholesale prices, like Canada and most other sane nations do.
  • by Software (179033) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:40PM (#11669947) Homepage Journal
    Can you explain the polio vaccine? How about smallpox?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:44PM (#11669995)
    Skinner:
    Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.

    Lisa:
    But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?

    Skinner:
    No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.

    Lisa:
    But aren't the snakes even worse?

    Skinner:
    Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.

    Lisa:
    But then we're stuck with gorillas!

    Skinner:
    No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

    http://www.snpp.com/episodes/5F22
  • And another thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xant (99438) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:46PM (#11670018) Homepage
    People who have cancer serious enough to require this step are going to die, soon and painfully, from their cancer. In that position I know what my attitude would be: "Cure me or kill me. It's a win-win from my point of view." (paraphrasing House, M.D.)
  • Re:battlefield (Score:2, Insightful)

    by porcupine8 (816071) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:48PM (#11670045) Journal
    Maybe you've never gotten chemotherapy. I have. IT SUCKS ASS. If there's ever any point at which your body is a battlefield, it's when you're getting chemo - it's working as hard as it can to kill your cells, and they're working as hard as they can to fight back. Growing back bone marrow that's been killed off hurts.

    If this HIV-derived therapy will make cancer die more easily from chemo and cause you to have to have less chemo (which, from the article, is how it sounds like it works), then really you're just shortening the war.

  • by porcupine8 (816071) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:57PM (#11670149) Journal
    Well, that's pretty much what they're doing with chemotherapy. The problem is, just b/c you've got something that treats one kind of cancer doesn't mean it'll be equally easy to find something to treat any other kind of cancer.

    Some cancers have cure rates of well over 80% - we happen to have found the right mix of drugs for them. Unfortunately, that hasn't helped us much in finding the right mix of drugs for many other cancers, which still have very low survival rats.

    You're absolutely right, that's how this problem has to be attacked - but it's not as simple as you make it sound. Maybe modifying a virus to attack a different cancer will be easier than modifying chemo regimens - but probably not.

  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouhaha. c o m> on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:58PM (#11670154) Homepage Journal
    Poor old woman, I think she'll die.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:01PM (#11670205) Homepage Journal
    Didn't they basically rubberstamp a drug with an 80% success rate against leukemia a while back? They're not evil, just beurocratic.
  • you don't see a whole lot of healthy people screaming about their exposure to those deadly glowing, poisonous cancer patients.

    Carboplatin isn't infectious.

    Now, you and I understand that the HIV used for this therapy would be highly modified from the original plague, but I suspect that the majority of people wouldn't know (or care) about the differences. On the other hand, it's pretty well understood that most poisons are completely localized to the people who ingest them.

  • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:49PM (#11670833)
    eh... wouldn't the average reproduction rate (or x/1000) increase?
  • Re:Amazing! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tgibbs (83782) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:51PM (#11670861)
    I'm pretty far removed from science in any practical setting, but what are the procedures for this kind of research? I've seen too many movies like 28 Days Later to not imagine some accident or oversight to cause some sort of mutant airborne HIV.

    HIV is already widely spread in human populations all over the world, mutating rapidly, and under strong selective pressure from antiviral drugs. If it could easily mutate into an airborne strain, it probably would already have done so. The likelihood that modifying it for therapeutic purposes would accidentally turn it into an airborne strain is probably about the same as the risk that kid down the street customizing his car will accidentally turn it into an attack helicopter.
  • by SeventyBang (858415) on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:15PM (#11671119)
    I'm waiting for them to tell us cancer is the result of renegade stem cells. After all, stem cells "...can be used to create any other cell..." and should they get a little "goofy" or should something, whether it's environmental, ingested, genetic, or whatever else it might be, "reprogram" a stem cell (or more than one) and turn them loose - it's obviously part of the victim's body - so it's not detected as a foreign object - and it's all downhill from there.

    Perhaps the same logic needs to be applied to stem cells to deal with auto-immune diseases: MS, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. Reprogram the stem cells and see if they could be less disruptive than chemo and radiation.
  • by misleb (129952) on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:23PM (#11671178)
    It is not uncommon for humans to introduce one pest to get rid of another just to find that the new pest is just that, a pest. AFAIK, we can't know for sure all the long term effects of being infected with an engineered HIV. What if it is one small mutation away from causing some serious problems? 5 billion walking petri dishs seems like a pretty good opportunity for such a mutation. Scientists are doing some really amazing things, but they can screw up royally just like anyone else. Pardom me if I don't have absolute faith. I wouldn't fully accept this new cancer treatment unless I could be assured that the virus will die off or self destruct once the job is done. Seems to me like it would die off in the absense of its preferred home, cancer cells, but I'd like to know for sure. ANd of course, IANAB.

    -matthew

  • Re:Exercise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jerf (17166) on Monday February 14, 2005 @04:12PM (#11671773) Journal
    Ha. I knew it. Part of the definition of "good exercise" is that it has to be boring.

    I guess that heart beating and sweating and stuff for easily the recommended 15-30 minutes at a time isn't enough... it overloads the easily-overloaded "fun" receptors on the heart and other muscles and cancels out all of the other benefits. The fact that I'm feeling better is also an illusion brought on by excessive fun, which can of course cause hallucinations.

    If you're not slamming you feet on hard concrete and hating every minute of it, unless you let go of your sanity and use the cognitive dissonance of "Why the hell am I doing this?" to convince yourself that, logically, you must be having fun, you're not really getting exercise.

    Although, maybe I'm jumping the gun on this post. Having heard of neither Heard Disease nor excercise, maybe I'm accidentally reading into what you were saying. Maybe excercise really is the cure for Heard Disease, probably helps Caner too, which I hear is really vicious. (You haven't lived until you're under attack by a Heard of Caners, either. Damn, man, now that's sickness.)

    Thanks for setting me straight, Dr. SoTuA.
  • New strategy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @04:37PM (#11672035)
    Hardly. We've been using one strong enemy to fight another strong enemy for years. That's what chemotherapy and radiation therapy do. You try to kill the cancer without killing the patient.

    A lot of our prescription medicines are actually poisons if they were in slightly larger doses.

    I'm on three antibiotics right now and they are working on the infection, but, damn, I feel as bad as I've ever felt simply from the side effects.
  • Re:Exercise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Just Another Perl Ha (7483) on Monday February 14, 2005 @04:38PM (#11672043) Journal
    Sorry, the cure for Heard Disease is good excercise, not epileptic-like spasms and shakes.

    Tell that to my wife (a victim of heart desease for the past four years) who suffered her fate due to myocarditis [nih.gov] brought on by a normal case of the flu... and not a poor diet or lack of excercise. Except for her failing heart (now pumping at a whopping 30%) she's the picture of perfect health. Her doctors keep wanting to use her as a poster-child to inform otherwise healthy women of their risks.

  • by TheWatchfulBabbler (859328) on Monday February 14, 2005 @06:23PM (#11673047)
    It's a technique developed by Xenogen; I've seen it show up in several recent conferences and papers, but I'm not up on the details. It does use in vivo expression of luciferase plus intraperitoneal administration of luciferin, plus what I assume is a *very* sensitive photon detector. There was an article in PNAS a few months ago where they used this technique.

    I do agree that the article is badly done, but Wired isn't really known for its rigor.

  • Not new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xgamer04 (248962) <xgamer04@ya h o o.com> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:56AM (#11675251)
    To mix this with the strategy of using one strong enemy against another is brilliance!

    Ever heard of phages?

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