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Hooray for HIV!
February 13, 2005 7:14 PM   Subscribe

HIV vs. cancer - two wrongs make a right.
posted by Pretty_Generic (41 comments total)

 
The trick will be to make the virus target the cancer cells without it mutating into something else.
posted by McBain at 7:20 PM on February 13, 2005


Cool....but please, no masses that are fast growing HIV cells, got that scientists?
posted by filmgeek at 7:25 PM on February 13, 2005


it could be promising--of course, i wish they would try to find something that would kill HIV without killing the person.
posted by amberglow at 7:26 PM on February 13, 2005


Have they tried cancer?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2005


The first thing this makes me think is, "wow, they really are trying just about everything."

"Good work, Johnson. Now let's see what the flavor crystals from this breath mint do."
posted by tss at 7:45 PM on February 13, 2005


How is cancer or HIV a "wrong"? They are living entities trying to survive, that's all.
posted by Dean Keaton at 7:56 PM on February 13, 2005


Cancer at least is a malfunction of your own body. From a detached, logical standpoint, it's "wrong" in the same sense that malfunctioning reactor control rods are "wrong".
posted by tss at 8:02 PM on February 13, 2005


You know, while this sounded like the worse idea ever when I first heard it, in retrospect, it's a logical choice. Giving a malfunctioning HIV the genes to instantly kill other cells sounds like a pretty effective way of signing humanity's death warrent, until you consider how slow HIV's methods of transmission are. A version of HIV that quickly killed the host would never spread significantly.

Just the same, I hope the scientists working on this are being really careful.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:09 PM on February 13, 2005


Dean Keaton, on a certain bizarre level you're right, however.
HIV and cancer aren't viable outside the bodies they destroy. So, they don't qualify in my book. They do nothing but terminate life in their host organism. Which is us among other animules.
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:15 PM on February 13, 2005


"Cancer has feelings too." - People for the Ethical Treatment of Tumors
posted by quonsar at 8:17 PM on February 13, 2005


Your immune systems kill millions of microogranisms daily! You're all worse than Nazis!
posted by Krrrlson at 8:21 PM on February 13, 2005


This is like Alien vs. Predator on a cellular level.
posted by fenriq at 8:29 PM on February 13, 2005


it is, fenriq. it really is.

I wonder if they're ever really be able to control the hiv virus enough so that it's safe enough for people.
posted by amberglow at 8:31 PM on February 13, 2005


The trick will be to make the virus target the cancer cells without it mutating into something else.

The trick will be marketing HIV to cancer patients. I can't wait to see HIV's superbowl commercial.
posted by unsupervised at 8:34 PM on February 13, 2005


HIV and cancer aren't viable outside the bodies they destroy.

Wrong. HeLa cells have been used for decades now, outside of the original doner. They are cancer cells, they don't die (given adequate care and feeding).

HIV is a retrovirus, injecting rogue RNA and managing to have it converted to DNA inside of the cell. The virus, instead of simply hijacking the cells resources, integrates its RNA in to the host DNA. This is why they're looked at fairly intensively for gene therapy.

The system they're trying is pointless. Changing the shell isn't viable for mass amounts of virus. So, really, hope is a bit premature.

It's still really cool.
posted by vevaphon at 8:41 PM on February 13, 2005


Botulism Toxin was a pretty easy sell.
posted by 4easypayments at 8:42 PM on February 13, 2005


The trick will be marketing HIV to cancer patients. I can't wait to see HIV's superbowl commercial.

Can this even still be called HIV?
posted by vevaphon at 8:42 PM on February 13, 2005


Well, I wouldn't say it's pointless vevaphon. You don't start a race at the finish. Maybe for this particular adaptation it's flawed but the science behind it is amazing.
posted by j.p. Hung at 9:05 PM on February 13, 2005


Changing the shell isn't viable for mass amounts of virus.

Yeah, I don't get this, either. Why not replace the coding region for the virus coat with that from a virus that does attach to the target tissue? We can already do this in other contexts.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:11 PM on February 13, 2005


Imagine when they first presented their findings...

"We've found the cure for cancer...

Unfortunately, it's HIV."
posted by drezdn at 9:23 PM on February 13, 2005


How about "SHIVA"? Or something catchy like that?
posted by weston at 9:32 PM on February 13, 2005


but you "sit shiva" when someone dies--that's not a good name i don't think.
posted by amberglow at 9:40 PM on February 13, 2005


Now, there's a clinical trial for ya.
posted by kahboom at 9:47 PM on February 13, 2005


Why can't they turn these mutant HIV cells into genocidal cannibals by having them wipe out all of the real HIV?
posted by reflection at 10:18 PM on February 13, 2005


The trick will be to make the virus target the cancer cells without it mutating into something else.
Word. The major problem with finding a cure for AIDS is the cell copying machinery is incredibly inaccurate as compared to normal cells resulting in errors in the DNA causing it to mutate and evade our drugs. I see no reason why their method here would change that. Hell, if the scientists figured out a way to improve the cell-copying machinery and it was more accurate, a good chunk of the battle against AIDS would be won.
Also, as far as I know, their golden protein P-glycoproteins is not present on all cancer cells as the fact is cells aren't simply cancer or not cancer but rather come in grades (it takes a series of mutations (generally regarded as about 6) to cause cancerous cells- not just one).
posted by jmd82 at 10:31 PM on February 13, 2005


HIV is one of the most studied and understood diseases, for obvious reasons. The reason the scientists chose this virus was because it's so well studied.
posted by delmoi at 10:55 PM on February 13, 2005


So why not do the same thing for fighting HIV itself?
Literally fight fire with fire.
posted by nightchrome at 11:04 PM on February 13, 2005


Next thing you know, they'll be telling you that anthrax, sarin, and depleted uranium dust cures the common cold...
posted by Balisong at 11:05 PM on February 13, 2005


In Soviet Russia....
posted by fet at 11:20 PM on February 13, 2005


So why not do the same thing for fighting HIV itself?

Viruses bind to (attack) cells, not other viruses.

The analog of this "in the other direction" is for CD4 cells to have mutated receptors that HIV can't bind to.

In fact, there is a small segment (1%) of the population that is partially immune to HIV for this reason.

These people have genetic mutations that change the shape of certain specific molecules on the surface of CD4 immune system cells.

Different strains of HIV can't bind to these differently shaped molecules the way they normally do. This imparts partial resistance. Other strains make their way in through other "doors".

I don't know enough about the subject to say if there is genetic therapy that aims to block normal ("wildtype") receptors with a flood of antibodies that bind to the various receptors. Blocked-off receptors might prevent HIV from binding at the same level.

Most of the therapies I've seen are retroviral drugs, protease inhibitors, which affect the machinery of a corrupted CD4 cell, breaking its ability to make more copies of HIV.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:23 PM on February 13, 2005


Cool. Now if we could only get prions to attack the HIV...
posted by sourwookie at 12:05 AM on February 14, 2005


I might be being just a tad over cautious here, but I'm going to need a serious brain washing session before I opt for this one. It's only cancer for gods sake - I don't want to risk getting something really serious.
posted by Cancergiggles at 12:18 AM on February 14, 2005


@Weston - Darwin's Radio, perhaps? Good book, but it took a couple of reads to figure out what was going on. Naming a virus after a fictional virus is probably tantamount to scaremongering, anyway :-)

@thread - wasn't there a concern at some point that HIV could (at least theoretically) combine with an aerosol virus, and therefore change it's infection mechanism to something a lot more common?

If so (and my memory isn't playing tricks on me) then this sounds like a really bad idea...
posted by Chunder at 2:15 AM on February 14, 2005


sourwookie - Eventually, someone may even find a use for cane toads :-)
posted by Chunder at 2:19 AM on February 14, 2005


Why did I read that article and think of this?

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.

posted by dflemingdotorg at 5:10 AM on February 14, 2005


I can't wait to see HIV's superbowl commercial.

"Ask your doctor about HIV today ... what? ... no, the good HIV, the one that cures cancer ... yeah, I know it's a bit confusing, but trust us ... no, we ment to say 'HIV' ... yes, HIV as in HIV/AIDS ... yeah, but it helps now, it's on our side ... no, it works, really ... I can assure you that I'm not drunk."
posted by Hillman Cobs at 6:30 AM on February 14, 2005


HIV: Now safer than Vioxx!
posted by defending chump at 6:53 AM on February 14, 2005


The system they're trying is pointless. Changing the shell isn't viable for mass amounts of virus.

This is patently false. It's called pseudotyping and it can be done by the liter, at concentrations of 10 billion viral particles per liter, and very very efficiently and cheaply. I in fact do it myself almost every week (Irvin Chen is one of my lab's collaborators). Using a pseudotype envelope can make a far more efficient delivery vehicle than using HIV's own envelope.

Still, this article is pretty much hype. The main problem with gene therapy of cancer is that using current techniques, such as an HIV-based vector like this, is that you can only get your therapeutic gene into a relatively small proportion of cells in a tumor, even if the vector is accurately targeted to the tumor. The cells that remain untouched by the vector normally just end up regrowing and causing the same problem to reoccur.

The reason the scientists chose this virus was because it's so well studied.

Actually, it was primarily chosen because it gets into nondividing cells, it can be concentrated to really high titers, it's virtually nonimmunogenic, and expression of the therapeutic gene is permanent and not transient like with most other types of vector.

So why not do the same thing for fighting HIV itself?.

Many of labs are pursuing that idea.

In my opinion, the current HIV vectors are very safe, though.
posted by shoos at 7:30 AM on February 14, 2005


Brilliant!
</AmericanGuinnessCommericals>
posted by Doohickie at 7:39 AM on February 14, 2005


shoos: "... it can be concentrated to really high titers, it's virtually nonimmunogenic, and expression of the therapeutic gene is permanent and not transient like with most other types of vector."

Well, NOW I can speak intelligently about this at cocktail parties.
posted by divrsional at 12:19 PM on February 14, 2005


Chunder -- good to know there's some other Greg Bear readers out and about. :) Yeah. SHIVA would be bad.
posted by weston at 1:44 PM on February 14, 2005


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