HIV Frontlines: The Doctor Who Cured HIV

An Interview With Gero Hütter, M.D.

June 19, 2012

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Gero Hütter, M.D.

Gero Hütter, M.D.

This isn't another story about the "Berlin patient" -- a.k.a. Timothy Brown, the first, and to date the only, man who's ever been considered "cured" of his HIV infection. His story has been told many times, in many ways, and in many publications -- including ours, so there's no need to retell it.

By comparison, we've seen relatively little about the man who cured him: Gero Hütter, M.D., an oncologist in Berlin who was previously unknown in the HIV field. And with good reason: Until the Berlin patient, Hütter had never treated an HIV-infected cancer patient before, nor had he conducted any HIV-related research studies.

While in New York City for a speaking engagement, Dr. Hütter was kind enough to visit with us. Relaxed and mild-mannered, he discussed the Berlin patient's case -- how he approached it, how he weighed the risks and the benefits, and what we've learned from the process. He also shared his thoughts on how the case transformed his career, and on what needs to happen for the HIV/AIDS medical community to repeat the Berlin patient's success and yield a second "cured" patient (and a third, and a fourth, and ...).

Table of Contents

The Makings of a Miracle

Explain to me how a clinician who is trained as a hematologist and a cancer researcher ends up being the guy who changes the way we think about the approach to an eventual cure for HIV.


[Laughs] This is what I always want for my patients: I want the best treatment. This was a challenge, from when I saw Timothy and I realized that we have to do this transplantation. For me, it was the first patient with HIV which received allogeneic transplantation.

We know from patients with leukemia that eradication is achievable. And we cannot accept, in patients with leukemia, that any of these leukemia cells will survive, because they are the basis of any relapse of leukemia. So you have to cure these patients and get rid of the leukemia. And if this works with leukemia, why shouldn't it work with HIV?

You make it sound like it's such a natural, logical conclusion. But we've known about this mutation -- that people whose CD4 cells don't have the CCR5 receptor are largely immune to most forms of HIV -- we've known this since the mid-to-late '90s. Yet nobody had thought to try this before.

That's not quite correct. There are several others who had this idea before me. And they had made approaches to realize that. For example: the StemCyte [Cord Blood Bank] built up cord blood units, with tested cord blood units for the CCR5 mutation in 2001.

The gene therapy approaches targeting CCR5, they are older than the Timothy Brown case. But this case has supported their work. The techniques were available, and the idea was available, but it needed something that enhances the whole development.

After the Timothy Brown case was published, the funding and the support for such new approaches were opened, and now the development has come much more quickly and rapidly.

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This article was provided by TheBodyPRO.
See Also
No Proof of New HIV Cure, Despite Headlines -- Here's What We Know
The Only Cases of HIV Cure or Remission
Beyond the Berlin Patient: How Researchers Are Now Trying to Cure More HIV-Positive People (Video)
What Would an HIV Cure Mean for You?

Reader Comments:

Comment by: say mr moneybags (harare zimbabwe) Wed., Jan. 2, 2013 at 8:22 am UTC
Interesting to know there others who care for total cure.its woth a try
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Comment by: Fahad (Jinja, UGANDA) Mon., Dec. 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm UTC
Can this transplant be applied to even the poor African countries, because HIV is on our neck.
I beg that let thee be trials in Uganda too and I take part of the participation , I am dreaming of being cured.

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Comment by: Lori Haserl (White Plains, NY) Sat., Dec. 1, 2012 at 8:33 am UTC
This statement, that someone was "cured" from the HIV virus is inncorrect. While his body has picked up a DNA instruction that now creates HIV resistance in the body, the HIV virus is still laying dormant in his body.If he was "cured" by standard definition of the word cured, then the virus would no longer be in his system. While i commend Dr. Gero Hutter, i would like to tell the author and the readers that the HIV path was stopped, not removed.
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Comment by: andrew (san francisco, ca) Sun., Sep. 16, 2012 at 9:28 pm UTC
this may be obvious to most, but just to underline it, modern medicine is really pretty amazing
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Comment by: Jair G (Monterrey, México) Wed., Aug. 1, 2012 at 9:29 am UTC
amazing and hopeful...
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Comment by: neeta (india) Mon., Jul. 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm UTC
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Comment by: lolki (wis) Sat., Jul. 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm UTC
it's obvious why there is no mainstream cure for hiv/aids there's more money to be made treating disease over curing them
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Comment by: Lucy Q (Los Angeles, Ca ) Tue., Jul. 17, 2012 at 2:32 am UTC
Its so wounderful 2 read this :) , I was diegnosed HIV+ in May/2012 I was beyond scared . I'm reading into it know but the first few weeks I was 2 scared 2 do so . I'm keeping the faith always and this reading gives Me even more hope * May God give U the ability N B right by your side on your wounderful research * - Amen
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Comment by: Girish C. (India) Wed., Jul. 11, 2012 at 3:31 am UTC
Amazing and really unbelievable
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Comment by: salmina (south africa) Sun., Jul. 8, 2012 at 6:33 pm UTC
The story is being told of the lucky patient, what else can be done to the millions of people?Or is this pandemic the last to end the world?
It sounds strange everytime when anything promising come to forth, the issue of funding rises to its peak.
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Comment by: Michelle (Bronx) Sun., Jul. 8, 2012 at 2:58 am UTC
I believe that there should be some clinical trials in the New York area of the CCR5 trial so that you can find out just how many people have it or don't have it. I believe people would be willing to show up even if they are not given incentative just for the fact it could help cure/save their life.
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Comment by: Papa PPZ (South Africa) Fri., Jul. 6, 2012 at 7:55 pm UTC
People are dying of HIV/AIDS an offer can be made to the Dr and he can cure de world.He can help the whole world.
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Comment by: mr L (US) Fri., Jul. 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm UTC
Why people don't postively to hurry the for hiv
cure this unwanted desases or scientistic need more people die intention because that is clear Brown has already cured why don't accept the medicine to be supply all over the world.
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Comment by: michael (los angeles) Tue., Jun. 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm UTC
here is a doctor who made a profound discovery and is trying to reach out to the whole community to come together and combine information, and then the world, especially the US ignores him and decides to do it by themselves...why? this is what happens when you try to make profit from the medical field. everybody wants to do their own thing so they can make a quick buck faster than the other guy........instead of welcoming this doctor's appeal to combine testing and create a central database for stem cells and a master list of people with no ccr5, they say no thanks.....this is sickening.
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Comment by: Miss Lee (SA ) Mon., Jun. 25, 2012 at 4:03 am UTC
Thats the best news ever - so why are you healing the rest of the world
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Comment by: Maria (South Africa) Fri., Jun. 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm UTC
thanks for the wonderful interview. I wish the medical doctors and researchers in this field start to realise how people are suffering and let them continue with the research for free for the benefit of the society. may God bless the DR who saved a life through this research and I wish he be supported. As a south africa who is HIV positive I feel like flying to Berlin to safe my life irrespective of the cost
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Comment by: Duncan (Dunedin, New Zealand.) Fri., Jun. 22, 2012 at 9:56 am UTC
Gero Hütter is a hero and a model for doctors worldwide! Medics with him motivations and his resources are the medics who are going to find THE CURE for this terrible disease we suffer from.

Thanks for the article, Myles. Keep publicising Gero Hütter. Make medics in other labs around the world sit up, take note, and copy his behaviour!
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Comment by: Luciano A (Mozambique) Thu., Jun. 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm UTC
I am HIV positive,discovered 1 year ago,i havent started with any treatment.
What can i do do be cured?
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: michael (los angeles) Tue., Jul. 31, 2012 at 6:05 am UTC
bombard your congressmen and government to expand stem cell research.

Comment by: Pauline Asgarali (Trinidad and Tobago....) Thu., Jun. 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm UTC
Angels Forever Foundation team support this information and we thank u 4 bringing to the people'.....god' bless every 1'....
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Comment by: nelson vergel (The Moon) Thu., Jun. 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm UTC
Love the article, Myles!!
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