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Doctors explore Nivolumab's potential to fight HIV

04 December 2017 09:19

Nivolumab prompted dramatic reductions in the patient's HIV cells

Nivolumab prompted dramatic reductions in the patient's HIV cells

A drug used to treat lung cancer has sparked new hope as a potential "cure" for HIV.

The discovery has been made while treating a patient with the Aids virus using Immunotherapy drug nivolumab, which led to a "drastic and persistent" decrease in the number of infected white blood cells shielding the virus.

The virus hides latently in the cells during anti-retroviral therapy, however it is ready to re-emerge spread to new cells the moment treatment ceases.

A shift of focus

The leader of the research team that made the discovery says scientists have increasingly focused on developing drugs to reactivate dormant HIV-infected cells.

Professor Jean-Philippe Spano, at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital AP-HP in Paris, continued: "This could have the effect of making them visible to the immune system, which could then attack them."

The immune system produces CD8 "killer" T-cells as an attack weapon against HIV.

Using nivolumab, doctors have witnessed dramatic reductions of HIV-infected cells and increased killer cells activity in the patient.

"This is the first demonstration of this mechanism working in humans. It could have implications for HIV patients, both with and without cancer, as it can work on HIV reservoirs and tumour cells independently," Professor Spano continued.

"The absence of side effects in this patient is also good news, and suggests this could be an optimum treatment for HIV-infected patients with cancer."

'An exciting result'

Results from the ground-breaking study have been published in the medical journal Annals of Oncology.

The journal's editor-in-chief Professor Fabrice Andre, of the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, said: "Although this is a single case study, it is an exciting result.

"Anti-HIV drugs usually stop virus replication but don't cure the patients who still have reservoirs of the virus. This study generates the hypothesis that drugs that make the virus disappear could, perhaps, cure patients."

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