Has cancer helped to find the cure for HIV?

Has cancer helped to find the cure for HIV?

For years scientists have researched to find the cure for cancer and the cure for HIV.  While there has been great progress in treating and diagnosing many kinds of cancer, the treatment for HIV has not been nearly so revolutionary.  The cure for HIV has been particularly elusive, until now.

An unlikely scenario has given rise to the hope that a cure for HIV may have been found.  Two men with cancer and with a HIV infection that had been established for a long time have been cleared of the virus from their bodies.  The men had been receiving long term treatment for their HIV infection and both had received a stem cell transplant in their treatment of lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.  However, since the transplants have taken place doctors have been unable to find any evidence of the HIV infection.   The news was broken by Timothy Henrich at an International AIDS society event in Kuala Lumpar.

The men had undetectable levels of HIV in their blood after the stem cell transplant but were still taking HIV suppressant medicine.  However the patients had stopped taking the antiretroviral drugs for 15 weeks and 7 weeks respectively at the time the news broke.  While it is too early to say if this has cured the men of HIV the preliminary results are promising.    These cases are exciting and will open doors to finding a new treatment for HIV.

While these cases bare a resemblance to that of the “Berlin Patient” it is important to note key differences in the treatment.  Timothy Ray Brown, the Berlin Patient, was treated with stem cells from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation which made the donor virtually resistant to HIV, the mutation known as CCR5 delta 32 was not present for the Boston patients.

While further monitoring of these patients is needed to establish whether they have been cured, it is an exciting development and will certainly pave the way for new research within the field.
Source Reuters 23/01/2014

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