A patient from London who was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012, has been told his HIV is now “undetectable” following a stem cell transplant. He has been in remission from HIV for 18 months. This is only the second case of its kind. (His cancer is also in remission.)
Researchers from University College London, Imperial College London, Cambridge, and Oxford Universities reported their success in the journal Nature.
“Ten years ago, another patient in Berlin received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor with natural immunity to the virus.
Timothy Brown, said to be the first person to ‘beat’ HIV/Aids, was given two transplants and total body irradiation (radiotherapy) for leukaemia – a much more aggressive treatment.
‘By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly and that it really was the treatment approaches that eliminated HIV in these two people,’ said lead study author Prof Ravindra Gupta, from UCL.”1
While this finding is exciting, it is not a new treatment for the majority of people around the world living with HIV as the aggressive therapy “was primarily used to treat the patient’s cancer, not his HIV.”1
However, the case is significant because researchers believe it could help them find new ways to tackle HIV and find a cure.
Prof Eduardo Olavarria, from Imperial College London, said: “The treatment is not appropriate as a standard HIV treatment because of the toxicity of chemotherapy, which in this case was required to treat the lymphoma.” (Interesting that he pointed out that chemo is toxic. And if that’s so, why aren’t more cancer researchers trying to find a way to cure cancer WITHOUT using toxins?)
“CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1 – the virus strain of HIV that dominates around the world – to enter cells.
But a very small number of people who are resistant to HIV have two mutated copies of the CCR5 receptor. This means the virus cannot penetrate cells in the body that it normally infects.
The London patient received stem cells from a donor with this specific genetic mutation, which made him resistant to HIV as well.”1
Now that researchers see that the Berlin patient’s recovery wasn’t just an anomaly, they believe it might be possible to use gene therapy to target the CCR5 receptor in people with HIV.
We will be keeping an eye on this story and update you as more info becomes available.