She had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (aka ALL), which according to Wikipedia.org is, "cancer of the white blood cells characterized by excess lymphoblasts, where malignant and immature white blood cells continuously multiply and are overproduced in the bone marrow.
These damaged white blood cells cause damage and death to normal cells in the bone marrow, by drowning them out and by spreading to (infiltrating) other organs.
ALL is most common in children, with peak incidences occurring in children between 2–5 years old. It peaks again in old age.
The overall cure-rate in children is about 80%, and about 45%-60% of adults have long-term disease-free survival."
Although chemotherapy has been successfully used to treat some forms of leukemia, Emma relapsed after being treated twice with chemo.
Her doctors had run out of options, so they tried an experimental treatment on her at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in April this year.
The experiment, used a disabled form of the HIV virus that causes AIDS, to genetically reprogram Emma’s immune system, to kill cancer cells.
Emma is now in remission.
The experiment had never been tried on a child, nor on anyone with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Although the experiment was potentially life-threatening, Emma emerged from it, cancer-free and has been the cancer-free since April.
Although Emma's doctors are cautious about the experimental treatment being called a cure for ALL, of the twelve (12) advanced leukemia patients at the University of Pennsylvania who were administered the experimental treatment, three (3) had full remissions with no signs of cancer, since being treated two (2) years ago; four (4) adults are improving but did not have full remissions, one (1) child improved but has since relapsed and in two (2) adults, the treatment did not work at all )...
...Researchers say the same approach - reprogramming the patient’s immune system, may also eventually be used against tumors like breast and prostate cancer.
Major drug company Novartis, is betting on the market potential of the above experimental treatment and so is building a $20 million facility on the University of Pennsylvania campus, to enable the experimental treatment to be brought to market.
Many thanks to:
2) Microbe World for the use of their Flickr inset picture of the HIV virus (green) being cultivated on human lymphocytes (red).
This is usually done in a lab environment in order to find HIV cures.
1) Article, "Acute lymphoblastic leukemia", ia.wikipedia.org, accessed December 11,2012
2) Article, "In Girl’s Last Hope, Altered Immune Cells Beat Leukemia", by Denise Grady, New York Times|Health, December 9,2012