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Biotech Science

The Cure for Cancer Might be: HIV 668

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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  • Mabye (Score:2, Interesting)

    by uberjoe ( 726765 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:32PM (#11669068)
    I guess as long as they take care of the immunodeficency part, that might not be so bad. Wouldn't want to live in a bubble now would we.
  • by CyberLord Seven ( 525173 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:33PM (#11669083)
    Shades of Andromeda Strain, this story =Aids&slug=New+HIV+strain+found+in+NY&id=68437&cal lid=1 [] implies that HIV is becoming stronger at a time when we want to spread it by calling it a cure. I guess if you die early of the new more virulent HIV then you don't have to worry about cancer.

  • Re:battlefield (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hyecee ( 809818 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:37PM (#11669142) Journal
    I think the "slight" risk of contracting an incurable, terminal disease is worth the chance to be rid of an incurable, terminal disease. Really, what have you got to loose?
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:38PM (#11669152) Homepage Journal
    Genetically modified cells and viruses often mutate. scientists aren't certain, but they suspect that modification produces a less stable genetic code. But we are getting better at producing more robust modifications.
  • They do mutate a lot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:39PM (#11669165)
    At least HIV mutate a lot, As Far As I Remmember. Also the cold virus (grippe?) mutate a lot this why you have to vaccinate every year AFAIR.
    mutability of influenza []
    some propaganda but also speaks of HIV mutability. [] I did not have time to search for more HIV article but google is your friend.
  • by tilleyrw ( 56427 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:42PM (#11669204)

    The Medical Indu$try in America is founded upon the idea of maintain a large pool of "sick" people.

    1. Without sick people buying medicines, there is no Profit.
    2. These medicines are only sufficiently effective to "ease" the trauma of the patients.
    3. These medicines will never cure the patients as such removes the profit margin.
    4. Therefore, the patients buy more and more "medicine", just to feel less sick.
    5. The Medical Indu$try PROFITS.

    End of story.

  • Re:battlefield (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpongeBobLinuxPants ( 840979 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:42PM (#11669207) Homepage
    At what cost to our bodies? Yes, there are germs in us all the time, having a common cold knocks you down for a few days, a stomache virus, a week, what would cancer and (modified) HIV duking it out do to us? Already some patients opt not to hace chemo and other treatments because of the toll it takes on them. They would rather live a better quality of life for 6 months than be sick from a threatment and live 12 months.
  • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:45PM (#11669243) Homepage Journal
    What you're talking about is Class A Experimental Therapy. It's heavy stuff and ranks up there with "hell if I know, maybe this'll do something" as far as the wealth of medical knowledge associated with it.

    As drugs and techniques prove themselves they move down the ladder until they're used to treat the general public.

    Of course, patients are only give the option of highly experimental methods once the tried and true stuff has failed.

    The only people exposed to this will be the ones who allready have a death sentence from their cancers.

    Sometimes cancer forces people into rough decisions. A friend of mine chose to accecpt a bone marrow transplant from an HIV positive doner because it was her only chance to beat her leukemia.

    She's doing fine now, but she's on AZT and all kinds of other antivirals now to stave off AIDS.

  • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:48PM (#11669272) Journal
    In a way that strain is a GoodThing(tm).
    Since it progresses faster (countable in months rather than years), it is more likely to eliminate its self, rather than stay silent and spread.
  • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:55PM (#11669357) Journal
    While this may be good for curing cancer, I would fear if this tech got in the wrong hands:
    "Scientists could customize the system to target any protein on the surface of a cell"
    Target the protiens on a group of humans, Kurdish, Jewish, Korean, whatever. Many groups of humans have some genes that are particular to their genetic heritage. Target those geenes to make something worse, instant selective genocide.
  • by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:57PM (#11669374) Homepage Journal

    Multi-drug-resistant HIV strain raises alarm []

    The coincidence that an engineered HIV against cancer comes around just when another HIV mutation appears on the wild... Where is my tinfoil hat?
  • by jamesoutlaw ( 87295 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:00PM (#11669410) Homepage
    This link [] has some interesting information about the origin of HIV... including this:

    Three of the earliest known instances of HIV infection are as follows:

    1. A plasma sample taken in 1959 from an adult male living in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo
    2. HIV found in tissue samples from an American teenager who died in St. Louis in 1969.
    3. HIV found in tissue samples from a Norwegian sailor who died around 1976.

    Analysis in 1998 of the plasma sample from 1959 was interpreted5 as suggesting that HIV-1 was introduced into humans around the 1940s or the early 1950s, which was earlier than had previously been suggested. Other scientists have suggested that it could have been even longer, perhaps around 100 years or more ago.
  • by nucal ( 561664 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:05PM (#11669476)
    The reason that the adenoviral therapy killed Jesse Gelsinger is that they a) used a form of the virus that causes an immune response b) miscalculated the dose that they gave him and c) injected it directly into his hetatic portal vein (right into his liver).

    This is a big problem with adenovectors - even in the best cases, patients will get at least a little sick from them. There are next generation forms that are less toxic, but these are still in development.

    The real advance here was that they were able to combine the minimal "cell killing" aspect of HIV with another virus, Sindbis, to create a gene therapy that is relatively benign. They then modified that to target this to specifically kill a certain type of tumor. Previous attempts at HIV-based gene therapies proved to be too toxic.

    Of course this was all in mice, which don't get AIDS from HIV. Whether it would in people is another story.
  • Re:Amazing! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:09PM (#11669524)
    A bit of Googling provides multiple respectable sources stating that HIV is categorised as biohazard level 3. CDC has some information on biosafety [] (2.8MB - pretty slow) which includes requirements for handling of agents at different levels.
  • by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <> on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:10PM (#11669547) Homepage Journal
    This research, while initially scary, is relatively safe due to the safeguards in place.

    What you need to fear and what the general population doesn't understand is that chickens overseas are the perfect breeding ground for the next epidemic. At least one case exists where two people caught the flu bug from an infected person... who got it from a chicken.

    Can you imagine what wouldve happend had that inital carrier been infected with, say, influenza? A nice, ripe virus that mutates every year and at the drop of a hat... now being fed genes that can expand it's payload a millionfold.

    What do you think a flu vaccine would cost then? Assuming, of course, that the 20% mortality rate would be realistic...

    Anyways- this research doesn't scare me. They aren't talking about mixing different diseases yet that have radically different vectors (think Clancy). But should they try to pull this stunt with common flu, chicken pox, small pox, HIV, bird flu, and rabies... and let them stew... then we're in trouble. Byebye world population...
  • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:26PM (#11669766)
    "When chronically taken, nicotine may result in:
    • positive reinforcement
    • negative reinforcement
    • reduction of body weight
    • enhancement of performance
    and protection against:
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Tourette's disease
    • Alzheimer's disease
    • ulcerative colitis and
    • sleep apnea.
    The reliability of these effects varies greatly but justifies the search for more therapeutic applications for this interesting compound."

    -"Beneficial Effects of Nicotine" (Jarvik, British Journal of Addiction, 1991)

    Not listed here is an obscure type of stroke that occurs with less frequency in smokers.

    I started smoking out of sheer desperation with ulcerative colitis about ten years ago. The ulcerative colitis went away, but then I was left with a disgusting two pack per day habit for two years that probably did more damage to my health. I should have tried chewing that gross nicotine gum instead. (Crohn's disease OTOH has a high incidence among smokers so it isn't exactly a total win.)
  • BOTOX, anyone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mbaciarello ( 800433 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:53PM (#11670104)
    Botox® [] is the commercial name for Clostridium Botulinum toxin -- a very possibly lethal one, too, if taken in appropriate doses.

    Just in case the layperson didn't know what the active ingredient is, it's got a self-explaining "*TOX" in its name. Now, that doesn't sound very reassuring, right?

    However, its name hasn't prevented it from becoming one of the most popular drugs in the US at the moment, with people paying outrageous money for a very simple injection - of a poison. There are even (mentally ill|desperate) people resorting to homemade products and ending up in intensive care units, if not dead. All this to be given poison and iron out a few wrinkles?

    I guess this shows that when there's both a scientific (and marketing?) interest, doctors and media are more than able to convince their patients that a "poison" or dangerous substance is for their good (looks.)
  • by Funkitup ( 260923 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:54PM (#11670109)
    there are chances of mutations but when the virus is so weak, its like 0.001%.

    What does that mean? 0.001% it will mutate into a killer virus per patient? Per hour? Ever?

    If it's per patient then that doesn't seem like an acceptable risk to me - we don't want any new weird strains of HIV around?
  • by TheWatchfulBabbler ( 859328 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:55PM (#11670124)
    You're absolutely right on the mark about the nature of the viral therapy. P-glycoprotein is an ATP-dependent drug efflux pump (part of the ATP-binding cassette family) present in a small number of cancer cells. Its main action is to remove drugs from cells before they reach their target, thus conferring multidrug resistance upon some cancers. (The name of the gene expressing P-glycoprotein says it all: MDR1, or "multidrug resistance 1.") Clinically, this means that physicians either have to abandon certain drug regimens, or increase drug levels in (often futile) efforts to get enough drugs into the cancer cells. Needless to say, oncologists *hate* Pgp.

    It wasn't until the mid-1990s that researchers were able to grow enough Pgp to analyze it using traditional methods, so we're really in the infancy of Pgp antagonists. This approach, if clinically successful, should radically improve the chances of many cancer patients.

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:15PM (#11670377) Homepage
    Nuclear Magnetic Resonance ( NMR ) which was changed to Magnetic Resonance Imaging ( MRI ) because too many people were afraid of the word nuclear.

    I've heard this several times. Does anyone know how exactly was it determined that "too many people were afraid of the word nuclear"? Or was there one marketroid who decided "nuclear" was too scary?

  • cocktail (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:16PM (#11670394)
    there's a 72 hour window with a ~90%+ success rate on stopping the infection. doctors/at-risk professionals have been using it for years...down side is that it's basically the same course of drugs you take for the real thing and lasts at least a month. not fun side effects either. i had a possible exposure once, odds of 1/500, declined the cocktail.
  • by voss ( 52565 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:32PM (#11670596)
    They are taking a form of the HIV virus and wrapping it inside a virus wrapper of a virus that is carried by BIRDS AND INSECTS! Imagine if they made a could potentially have a version of the AIDS virus that could be transmitted by insects or worse yet...spreadable by birds...undercooked poultry could have a whole new problem!

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday February 14, 2005 @04:15PM (#11671112) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm. I don't think that it would be as easy to turn it into a deadly weapon that way. But there probably are ways it could be done. If you were to modify it to target the appendix, or something else that you could ensure had already been removed from those you wanted to survive...

    Alternatively, someone with Sickle-Cell Anaemia could modify it to attack healthy bone marrow. The healthier a person was, the more deadly the attack would be to them.

    The problem (or, for humanity, the good thing) is that HIV is not very stable. It would be next to impossible to make an airborne strain of it.

    A far, far greater concern for humanity is that there are airborne strains of Ebola. If someone were to take an airborne Ebola and somehow merge in the targetting system in HIV, you could engineer a device capable of destruction on a scale Western civilization has no comprehension of.

  • by Suidae ( 162977 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @04:28PM (#11671251)
    Why is the body good at dealing with things like colds, but can't seem to handle things like common bacterial STDs? Or, is it actually good at dealing with them, but occasionally runs into a strain it can't handle and which then causes symptoms?
  • Well no. You don't have to mix HIV and ebola to make ebola devastating. The problem with ebola is that it is SO simple it kicks every cell it invades into overdrive to produce more ebola. It has just enough proteins to latch onto a cell and do its job. By the time you realize you have ebola, you are as good as dead.

    HIV is the opposite extreme. It's latency period is so long that someone will be infected for years if not decades before the infection is detected. HIV is a large, complex, and fickle virus.

    There is already something airborne, virilent, and with a just short enough but just long enough incubation time. It's called influenza and it kills millions per year. And it has been killing people for as long as we have been keeping track of epidemics.

  • Re:Exercise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bjohnson ( 3225 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @05:56PM (#11672218)
    Of the risks of what?

    Contracting myocarditis, which they can't say how she got, where she got, and which little or nothing can be done for?

    how s her example supposed to help, other than illustrate that horrible things can happen to people without warning.

    I'm sorry for her, but her case is just not the norm.

    The vast majority of heart disease in this country is brought on by a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and smoking.

    All three of these factors are readily curable without the intervention of a health organization, pricey pharmaceuticals or endless doctors visits.

  • by Naomiah ( 559580 ) on Monday February 14, 2005 @05:58PM (#11672237)
    Smoking also apparently helps control schizophrenia. Or perhaps a more exact way of putting it is that schizophrenics who are smokers do worse when they don't smoke. Most schizophrenics are smokers, just because of the tough circumstances under which they live, but I cannot cite for that. I just know that every schizophrenic that I have ever known smokes, and I have read studies about schizophrenia and smoking. Unfortunately, I read these studies way before the internet, so I cannot provide links.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982