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The drug, nivolumab, is used in treating advanced cancers and appears to be able to target the “latent reservoirs” of HIV-infected cells that prevent the virus being wiped out, requiring life-long treatment.
The authors acknowledge that this is just one example from a trial in 50 patients, one of whom showed no improvements, and further clinical trials are needed.
It could have implications for HIV patients, both with and without cancer, as it can work on HIV reservoirs and tumour cells independently.
The letter says it remains to be seen if the results can be repeated, but adds: “This first report of a successful depletion of the HIV reservoirs opens new therapeutic perspectives towards an HIV cure.” Scientists unrelated to this study also said caution was needed in interpreting this single case.
As of 2014, most HIV transmission in the United States occurred among men who had sex with men (83% of new HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 and older and 67% of total new diagnoses).
In low-income countries, the risk of female-to-male transmission is estimated as 0.38% per act, and of male-to-female transmission as 0.30% per act; the equivalent estimates for high-income countries are 0.04% per act for female-to-male transmission, and 0.08% per act for male-to-female transmission.
Nivolumab was theorised to remove a cellular brake that is preventing virus production and kick start the immune system to tackle infected cells.
While no HIV was detectable in this patient’s blood prior to starting nivolumab, virus levels began to increase after treatment along with the activation of infected cell killing “T-cells”.
Even cases that do get seen by a family doctor or a hospital are often misdiagnosed as one of the many common infectious diseases with overlapping symptoms.
Lentiviruses share many morphological and biological characteristics.
Many species of mammals are infected by lentiviruses, which are characteristically responsible for long-duration illnesses with a long incubation period.
Scientists have reported the first case of a cancer drug that “drastically and persistently decreases” HIV-infected cells which can’t be tackled with conventional HIV treatments.
The case, a 51-year old, HIV-positive man receiving treatment for lung cancer was reported as a letter in the journal today, World Aids Day, and has been cautiously welcomed as potential step towards a cure.Professor Spano said: “In this patient we observed, as expected, both a re-activation of HIV and an increase in CD8 T-cell responses against HIV, which resulted in the drastic decrease in the HIV reservoir, thus leading to a sustained reduction of the HIV reservoirs.