2 stem cell patients stop HIV drugs, no virus seen (Update)

July 3, 2013 by Eileen Ng
Timothy Henrich of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston speaks at the International AIDS Society Conference 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Two HIV-positive patients in the United States who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and still show no detectable sign of the HIV virus, researchers said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

Two HIV-positive patients in the United States who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and still show no detectable sign of the HIV virus, researchers said Wednesday.

The Harvard University researchers stressed it was too early to say the men have been cured, but said it was an encouraging sign that the virus hasn't rebounded in their blood months after drug treatment ended.

The first person reported to be cured of HIV, American Timothy Ray Brown, underwent a stem cell transplant in 2007 to treat his leukemia. He was reported by his German doctors to have been cured of HIV two years later.

Brown's doctors used a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that provides resistance against HIV. So far, no one has observed similar results using ordinary donor cells such as those given to the two patients by the Harvard University researchers.

The researchers, Timothy Henrich and Daniel Kuritzkes of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, announced last year that blood samples taken from the men—who both had blood cancers—showed no traces of the HIV virus eight months after they received bone marrow transplants to replace cancerous blood cells with healthy donor cells. The men were still on anti-HIV drugs at the time.

The men have both since stopped anti-retroviral therapy—one 15 weeks ago and the other seven weeks ago—and show no signs of the virus, Henrich told an international AIDS conference in Malaysia on Wednesday.

"They are doing very well," Henrich said. "While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured. Only time will tell."

The HIV virus may be hiding in other organs such as the liver, spleen or brain and could return months later, he warned.

Further testing of the men's cells, plasma and tissue for at least a year will help give a clearer picture on the full impact of the transplant on HIV persistence, he said.

Kuritzkes said the patients will be put back on the drugs if there is a viral rebound.

A rebound will show that other sites are important reservoirs of infectious virus and new approaches to measuring these reservoirs will be needed in developing a cure, Henrich said.

"These findings clearly provide important new information that might well alter the current thinking about HIV and gene therapy," Kevin Robert Frost, chief executive of The Foundation of AIDS Research, said in a statement. "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."

Explore further: Bone marrow transplant eliminates signs of HIV infection

Related Stories

Bone marrow transplant eliminates signs of HIV infection

July 26, 2012
Two men with longstanding HIV infections no longer have detectable HIV in their blood cells following bone marrow transplants. The virus was easily detected in blood lymphocytes of both men prior to their transplants but ...

Man believed cured of AIDS says he's still cured

July 24, 2012
(AP) — The first person believed to have been cured of AIDS says reports he still has the HIV virus are false.

Small breakthroughs offer big hope of AIDS 'cure'

July 26, 2012
Small but significant breakthrough studies on people who have been able to overcome or control HIV were presented Thursday at a major world conference on ways to stem the three-decade-old disease.

HIV no barrier to getting liver transplant, study finds

May 17, 2013
(HealthDay)—Liver transplants to treat a common type of liver cancer are a viable option for people infected with HIV, according to new research.

'Berlin Man,' doctor convinced HIV cure is real

September 12, 2012
(AP)—More than five years after a radical treatment, a San Francisco man and his German doctor are convinced that he remains the first person cured of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Being cured of HIV is 'wonderful,' US man says

July 25, 2012
The only person believed to have been cured of HIV infection through a bone marrow transplant said Tuesday he feels wonderful and is launching a new foundation to boost research toward a cure.

Recommended for you

Scientists divulge latest in HIV prevention

July 25, 2017
A far cry from the 1990s "ABC" campaign promoting abstinence and monogamy as HIV protection, scientists reported on new approaches Tuesday allowing people to have all the safe sex they want.

Girl's HIV infection seems under control without AIDS drugs

July 24, 2017
A South African girl born with the AIDS virus has kept her infection suppressed for more than eight years after stopping anti-HIV medicines—more evidence that early treatment can occasionally cause a long remission that, ...

Meds by monthly injection might revolutionize HIV care (Update)

July 24, 2017
Getting a shot of medication to control HIV every month or two instead of having to take pills every day could transform the way the virus is kept at bay.

Candidate AIDS vaccine passes early test

July 24, 2017
The three-decade-old quest for an AIDS vaccine received a shot of hope Monday when developers announced that a prototype triggered the immune system in an early phase of human trials.

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.