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Medical News

Cancer Drug Flushes Out Lurking AIDS Virus: Study

July 27, 2012

In a tentative first step toward a possible AIDS cure, U.S. researchers have used the cancer drug vorinostat to revive and unmask latent HIV in clinical trial patients' immune cells. The ability of the HIV genome, or reproductive code, to hide out in cells only and revive after decades has posed a major obstacle to a cure. Exposing the virus in its hiding place would allow scientists to target and destroy its host white blood cells: CD4+T cells.

According to David Margolis, co-author of the study, "This is proof of the concept, of the idea that the virus can be specifically targeted in a patient by a drug, and essentially opens up the way for this class of drugs to be studied for use in this way," he said in an interview at the 19th International AIDS Conference.

The eight patients in the clinical trial were also on antiretroviral drugs, which stop HIV from multiplying but have to be taken for life because they do not kill the hidden cells. "After a single dose of the drug, at least for a moment in time, [vorinostat] is flushing the virus out of hiding," Margolis said. It is the first drug to do so.

Although the virus would die without a host cell, Margolis added, "If it is only 99 percent true and 1 percent of the virus escapes, it won't succeed. That is why we have to be careful about our work and what we claim about it."

In published comments, HIV researcher Steven Deeks said that while promising, the study raises ethical concerns about giving potentially toxic drugs to HIV-infected people who are otherwise healthy. Also, HIV immunologist Quentin Sattentau said other types of reservoir cells, including those in the brain, may not respond to this treatment.

[PNU editor's note: The study, "Administration of Vorinostat Disrupts HIV-1 Latency in Patients on Antiretroviral Therapy," was published in Nature (2012;487:482-485).]

Back to other news for July 2012

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Connie (Ny) Tue., Aug. 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm UTC
Ive been positive since 82 my life would have been so much different if I didn't have HIV sometimes I think of the things I would do if they found a cure. Like move to Jamaica lol. My body has changed so much and now
I'm full of pain. I pray that a cure is in the future hopefully in my time I would life my life like there's no tomorrow instead of thinking I can't go there because I might run out of meds or hurry back home because I forgot them or worry about cutting myself while I play with all my nieces and nefews. But I do thank god and my doctors everyday for the long time I already lived
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Comment by: michael (los angeles) Sun., Aug. 12, 2012 at 4:43 am UTC
"In published comments, HIV researcher Steven Deeks said that while promising, the study raises ethical concerns about giving potentially toxic drugs to HIV-infected people who are otherwise healthy."

are they serious? concerns about potentially toxic drugs? they do realize that we have HIV and we take potentially toxic drugs everyday of our lives, right? the premise is to stop this cycle of taking potentially toxic drugs for the rest of our lives......
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Comment by: tom Thu., Aug. 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm UTC
LOL, always hilarious to see litle missives that let you know these brainiacs have never spent months whacked out of their minds on sustiva, let alone some ofthe older drugs.

Comment by: john swanson (denver) Sat., Aug. 11, 2012 at 10:02 am UTC
I am 63 years old, been on meds for 5 years, and doing very well. But I would be the first to sign up for this trial, if given the chance.
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Comment by: Rob (Sydney, Australia) Fri., Aug. 10, 2012 at 6:26 am UTC
I've been on ART for 7 years and although it's keeping me "undetectable" the side-effects continue to be horrendous. I often wonder whether it's worth going on. PLEASE develop a cure. I need to get OFF these awful toxic drugs, they're screwing up my brain and my body.
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Comment by: Jhon (england) Thu., Aug. 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm UTC
Hi Guys i have been Hiv positive for 2 years now,I am only 27 years and i think this is a good research. I would like to say well done to those people fighting against aids for a cure. But also i have to share with you all my concerns and say that since this happen to me i havent been able to do the things that i used to do before cause i have to take my pills everyday , i suffer with emotional ups and downs everyday , and everytime i do get into a forum people still thinking that the cure is out there but they dont want to to reveal it cause pharmaceutical companies wants to make you live longer but chronic so that they are profits from people like us. This is devastating news for everyone , Just stoped and think for a minute today its me but tomorrow could be you or someone in your family, I think people with the right power should force this cure to came out , to much suffering for the only life we have. Does any one how uncertain is when you are infected? keep thinking eceryday and sometimes when i feel more happy its like kncking in my head saying hello dont forget that you are hiv positive, i cant have a partner cause i am so scared of being stigmatise and other poeple know my status . "Then it makes me think like other infected people always say " If the man did get to the moon how can a cure for a virus doesnt a exist ? To hard to belive . God bless xxxx
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Comment by: Mdee (Ekasi) Fri., Aug. 10, 2012 at 5:52 am UTC
Very touching comment indeed. I share the same view 100%. Hope everyone out there will fight and help find a cure. Life really gets miserable no-matter how hard you try to soldier on. Its not the same as a negative person yet you might not have had much control on how you got infected in the first place.Blame to behaviour change has mostly increased stigmatisation and base-less guilt. Hope God will help us with this issue. Sometimes you feel like life is not worth living even though you are relatively healthy.God Bless!

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