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Girl, 7, Finds Leukemia Cure In HIV After Battling Disease For Two Years

Tue, December 11, 2012 12:27pm EDT by 14 Comments
HIV Cures Leukemia
Courtesy Of Savannah Smith, The Pennsylvania State University

Emily Whitehead was battling leukemia for two whole years — and relapsed twice during intensive chemotherapy treatments. Her family was given 48 hours to make the heart-wrenching decision to undergo a new medical treatment involving HIV that ended up saving her life.

By April of 2012,  Emily Whitehead, 7, and her family had just about given up hope that they would beat the leukemia she had been fighting for two years. She had relapsed twice — and didn’t seem to be responding to any of the traditional treatments.

Emily couldn’t be in remission long enough to attempt a bone marrow transplant, and her parents, Kari and Tom Whitehead, looked at more unconventional options for treating their little girl.

They went to Cancer Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which is known for testing and paving the way for new cancer treatments.

“We needed to try something new, different and cutting-edge,” Kari said, according to the Daily Mail.

Doctors brought up the idea of submitting Emily in a clinical trial that uses a disabled form of HIV to bring cancer-fighting genes to her T-cells. The idea behind the study is to reprogram the immune system to attack the cancer cells.

“We were told that we were down to 48 hours of making a decision or she could start having organ failure,” Tom said.

So they decided to go for it on April 17, and Emily became the first child to undergo the treatments called CTL019. Although it was rough for the first couple weeks, her condition improved immensely  By the end of April, she was breathing much better and her fever dropped significantly.

And months later, the results were even better.

“Emily completely responded to her T-cell therapy,” Dr. Stephan Grupp, the trial leader, said. “We checked her bone marrow for the possibility of disease again at three months and six months out from her treatment, and she still has no disease whatsoever. The cancer-fighting T-cells are still there in her body.”

What a medical miracle! The hospital is continuing to present their findings, and hope to expose more cancer patients to the treatment. We hope more people benefit just like Emily did!

What do YOU think of Emily’s remarkable treatment HollyMoms?

More Stories of Kids Battling Leukemia:

  1. This 5-Year-Old’s Artwork Helped Pay for His Own Chemotherapy Treatments
  2. Facebook Saved This 4-Year-Old Boy’s Life — Leukemia Diagnosis Mystery
  3. Father Fights Mom Giving Daughter With Cancer, 7, Medical Marijuana