938: T-Cells

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
T-Cells
'We're not sure how to wipe out the chimeral T-cells after they've destroyed the cancer. Though I do have this vial of smallpox ...'
Title text: 'We're not sure how to wipe out the chimeral T-cells after they've destroyed the cancer. Though I do have this vial of smallpox ...'

[edit] Explanation

This is a cancer and leukemia related comic. In this comic, two characters are having a discussion about a new trial treatment. A trial is a treatment that is not yet passed all of the hurdles to become an official drug or treatment, but it available to a certain set of patients based on the pharma company's set of criteria.

In this case, the two characters are talking about a trial in which the doctors take cells out of the patient's body and modify these cells. The modified cells are able to both attack the cancer cells and to replicate very quickly. However, to make these genetic changes inside the cells, they used the HIV virus as the "messenger" for these new genes because HIV is specialized in invading and modifying these kinds of cells. HIV is Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which is the precursor to AIDS.

Basically, this treatment seems to replace one terrible disease with another terrible disease. As the image text says, they don't know how to get rid of the modified T-cells after they remove the cancer. And the last part of the image text is a joke, in which the doctor suggests yet another disease to inject into the patients body.

[edit] Transcript

[Two people are standing facing each other, having a conversation. One is holding a laptop.]
Cueball (with laptop): What's the deal with this leukemia trial? {{Citation: Nejm, Aug 10, 2011}}
Friend: Gotta wait and see.
Friend: Helping the immune system attack tumors has been a longtime research target.
Friend: Lots of promising leads. Often they don't pan out.
Cueball: What'd these guys do?
Friend: They took some of the patient's T-cells and patched their genes so they'd attack the cancer. That hasn't been enough in the past but their patch also added code to get the T-cells to replicate wildly and persist in the body.
Cueball: Which worked, but created its own set of problems?
Friend: How'd you guess? But I think the craziest part is the way they insert the patched genes.
Cueball: How?
Friend: Well, think - What specializes in invading and modifying T-cells?
Cueball: Seriously?
Friend: Yup. Must've been a fun conversation.
[The last panel is set in a doctors office. A patient is sitting on the observation bed talking to their doctor.]
Patient: Ok, so I have blood cells growing out of control, so you're going to give me different blood cells that also grow out of control?
Doctor: Yes, but it's ok, because we've treated this blood with HIV!
Patient: Are you sure you're a doctor?
Doctor: Almost definitely.
comment.png add a comment!

Discussion

Does anyone have a link to the actual article? Or possibly a proper citation? 192.17.144.82 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I have added such a link in the explanation. Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to the magazine asterisked in the comic, so the link goes to another one. It also helps to Google "nejm aug 10 2011". Anonymous 04:51, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

Trial appears to have been a success, although the patient now has no B-cells and thus a compromised immune system (will need regular gamma globulin transfusions and the like). 75.103.23.206 16:54, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

Looks to be this article here [1] and [2]. I'll stick with chemo, thanks. 173.245.54.87 16:36, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

I know it's a joke, but just in case people are taking this seriously, this is worth a read. [3] The key word should have been "lentivirus", not "HIV". The T cells were modified using a heavily altered lentivirus derived from HIV. The virus shouldn't be referred to as HIV, though it makes for some great headlines. 199.27.128.167 20:40, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Before WWII there was an succesful method of curing syphilis with malaria (malariotherapy). Maybe a reference141.101.96.217 11:32, 27 March 2014 (UTC)
Personal tools
Namespaces

Variants
Actions
Navigation
Tools

It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal or Bitcoin?