1. Dr. Timothy Henrich of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston had exciting news to share at the International Aids Society Conference in Malaysia on Wednesday.
2. Two HIV-positive patients from Boston who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer and stopped antiretroviral therapy, show no detectable sign of the HIV virus.
According to a press release from AmfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, the patients had been on long-term antiretroviral therapy for HIV when they developed lymphoma. They both were diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the blood.
To treat the cancer, the patients underwent mild chemotherapy followed by stem-cell transplants. Since the transplants, Dr. Henrich has been unable to find any evidence of HIV infection. The patients both stopped taking their HIV medications at the time of testing. The researchers are now testing the patients’ blood weekly, and still have not found signs of the virus.
3. Henrich said of the news:
I don’t want to use the ‘cure’ word. If they remain virus-free in a year, or even two years, after [stopping] therapy, then we can make a statement that the chances of the virus returning are very low.
5. The case is similar to Timothy Ray Brown’s recovery from HIV in 2009 after he underwent a bone marrow transplant for leukemia. He became the only patient believed to be cured of HIV.
6. CEO of amfAR Kevin Robert stated:
These findings clearly provide important new information that might well alter the current thinking about HIV and gene therapy. While stem-cell transplantation is not a viable option for people with HIV on a broad scale because of its costs and complexity, these new cases could lead us to new approaches to treating, and ultimately even eradicating, HIV.
7. Although doctors are hesitant to call this a cure, it’s an exciting development and possibly a new approach to fighting the disease.
8. Read more on the case here.
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