Danish Study Targets HIV Reservoir, in Latest Search for HIV Cure

May 6, 2013

Danish researchers have begun testing panobinostat, an HDAC inhibitor, in 15 patients, in an attempt to find an HIV cure. HDAC inhibitors, which are traditionally used to treat cancer, are now being studied for their potential to flush HIV out of the latent reservoir.

The current phase of the study is set to be completed in September, but the researchers, led by Ole Sogaard, M.D., hope to have initial results within a few months.

The Telegraph reported:

"I am almost certain that we will be successful in activating HIV from the reservoirs," [Sogaard] said.

"The challenge will be getting the patients' immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems, as well as how large a proportion of the hidden HIV is unmasked."

[...] Dr Sogaard stressed that a cure is not the same as a preventative vaccine, and that raising awareness of unsafe behavior, including unprotected sex and sharing needles, remains of paramount importance in combating HIV.

However, the original Telegraph piece may have been overly optimistic when it reported that the researchers were on the brink of a cure, as David Evans of Project Inform explained:

Last week the London Daily Telegraph ran a story on this new compound, but claimed that a cure was just around the corner. The reporter apparently misquoted the researcher and overly hyped what he'd been told. The reporter has since toned down his piece and changed the headline due to pressure from a prominent activist in England and likely due in part to a piece the researchers themselves felt compelled to post to refute the article's claims. Unfortunately, the press outside of London grabbed hold and has been retreading the original uncorrected story since then.

While this is another promising study that should yield informative results, expectations should be tempered. We've heard about HDAC inhibitors before, particularly studies testing vorinostat, which Joseph Eron, M.D., talked about during his HIV cure overview presentation at ID Week 2012. In a small pilot study following eight patients, vorinostat was able to get latently infected cells to express HIV. However, as Eron noted, "We didn't show that you could actually reduce the reservoir. We didn't show that these cells died. We did show that there were no adverse events, which was good, but these were only single doses." Still, Eron said, this study marked the first successful in vivo demonstration of an HDAC inhibitor disrupting latency.

Then earlier this March at CROI 2013, Sharon Lewin, M.D., presented her findings testing multiple doses of vorinistat in 20 patients. The results were similar to the pilot study, in that vorinostat was able to awaken the reservoir but did not reduce its size. Lewin noted that the results indicated that future studies needed to include additional strategies.

Warren Tong is the research editor for and

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

Copyright © 2013 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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: Christabel M. (Lusaka chilenje) Tue., Jul. 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm UTC
It was in July 2006 ,By then I was six months pregnant When I was told that I'm HIV positive, It was like a dark day in all my entire life, My husband just dropped me at The clinic , Hi collapsed and the doctors where to rush me to the university teaching hospital . Even if I was cancelled about things could not work Accordingly to plans . My Player is that God can give the grace That you may find the cure Before it's too late .you may find a cure Please work hard and find the cure for Hiv Adis. We are waiting Anxious to get the Cure soon. Life has not been easy taking the Medicine on a daily bI Have got triplets to look after. May the Almighty God give you the grace to find the cure. Each day that passes by, You think that I'm going To die to tomorrow. Since I discovered that I'm HIV positive life has not been the same. Being the first born,it's crucial. We look forward to to the good news of finding the cure. We are anxiously waiting until the Day When we will be told that the cure has been found.
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Comment by: Christarbel. M. (Lusaka chilenje) Tue., Jul. 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm UTC
Still waiting for the QR for HIV AIDS
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Comment by: Jones (South Africa ) Thu., May. 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm UTC
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Comment by: Robert (Norwalk, CT) Thu., May. 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm UTC
Please stop being Negative Nancy’s!!! Be optimistic, please and thank you!
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Comment by: Robert (Norwalk, CT) Thu., May. 9, 2013 at 1:45 pm UTC
I think we all fully realize the cure is not around the corner... but please stop being Negative Nancy’s!!! Be optimistic, please and thank you!
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Day (Atlanta,GA ) Wed., May. 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm UTC
I am so happy about this!!! It may take a long time to find the cure but if you think about HIV back in the 80's and 90's is not the same, now hiv + woman can have babies w/o passing it to the baby, now they have the quick home test available for everyone and we can control the virus so well that after 5 years on successful treatment your lifespan is close to normal.Don't be negative! I am very realistic and I can see the medicine advances, trust God !

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