HIV Eliminated By Bone Marrow Transplant In Cancer Patient : Shots

Pearl Mccarthy
March 6, 2019

Bone marrow transplants as an HIV cure is a treatment with harsh side effects, but The New York Times reported that scientists think giving patients similar HIV-resistant immune cells might do the trick.

Professor Eduardo Olavarria, from Imperial College London, said: "While it is too premature to say with certainty that our patient is now cured of HIV, he is clearly in a long-term remission".

Timothy Ray Brown, cured of cancer and HIV and also known as the Berlin patient, attends the amfAR and GBChealth event, "Together to End AIDS". After chemotherapy, he underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016 and subsequently remained on antiretroviral therapy for 16 months.

The subject of the new study has been in remission for 18 months after his antiretroviral therapy (ARV) was discontinued.

The Berlin Patient later came forward as American Timothy Ray Brown and though doctors have made various attempts to replicate his treatment in the intervening decade, none have succeeded until now.

However, now that science has determined that the earlier Berlin patient's HIV cure wasn't merely a unusual fluke, it could open up the doors to new gene-level treatments for the disease.

They will present what they have learned so far in the next days in the journal Nature, and at a medical conference in the USA city of Seattle, Washington. These mutations are in a gene called CCR5, which HIV normally recognizes in immune cells and uses like a key to enter and infect them.

For this reason, he's often described as being the first patient "cured" of HIV, although technically that's incorrect, since remission and cures are not the same thing (as sometimes remissions are not complete, if the viral load stages a resurgence). Drug-resistant HIV is a growing concern.

The London Patient has chosen to remain anonymous.

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Following the transplant, the patient's immune system was able to adopt HIV resistance and fight against the disease.

Sixteen months after the procedure (which notably didn't include radiotherapy, unlike the Berlin patient), the London patient discontinued ARV drugs (aka ART therapy), and has now been in HIV remission for over 18 months.

The Aids pandemic has killed about 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s and about 37 million people are infected with HIV. The man, nicknamed The London Man, was said to have contracted the HIV virus in 2003.

Gupta added that the method used is not appropriate for all patients but offers hope for new treatment strategies, including gene therapies.

Current HIV therapies are really effective, meaning people with the virus can live long and healthy lives. The patient was receiving the bone marrow transplant for cancer.

The CCR5 gene, and the eponymous cell it codes for, nearly certainly play a crucial role in the collateral HIV cure. So, pre-screening the HIV population would appear to be critical to identifying the patients that this can help.

Before Tuesday some researchers had posited a third theory: that it was the intense combination of radiation and chemotherapy ahead of the stem-cell transplant that floored the virus.

"But this is not applicable to the millions of people who don't need a stem cell transplant".

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