We're fast approaching another Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), which is set to take place Feb. 22 - 25, 2016, in Boston. CROI is well regarded as the premiere conference where the latest, most important discoveries in HIV research and science are presented.
While the conference is still a week away, I've looked over the current program available on CROI's website, and here are some of the sessions and presentations worth looking forward to.
Cure and Remission Research
Each year reveals more keys to curing HIV -- or as we've come to accept as more realistic, treatment-free remission. Although completely eradicating HIV from the body (a sterilizing cure) is still the ideal goal, what may be more feasible is developing strategies that can help suppress HIV long-term without antiretroviral therapy.
Here are four presentations at CROI that I'll be paying attention to:
- T Cell Control of HIV: Implications for Vaccines and Cure: We're continuing to discover new ways in which our own immune systems can be fine-tuned to help fight HIV. Moreover, we're learning more and more that what's good for treatment is also good for prevention. This presentation will be one of the opening sessions, specifically the Bernard Fields Lecture, and should be a good one.
- Progress in Gene Therapy for HIV Cure: Gene therapy continues to make progress -- not only for HIV, but also for a variety of applications, particularly with the development of the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR. This plenary session should provide a recap of the most recent findings on gene therapy for HIV.
- Virological Remission After Antiretroviral Therapy Interruption in African HIV-1 Seroconverters: Treatment interruption studies continue to gain steam, not just to test if individuals can control HIV after stopping treatment, but how they can do it and for how long.
- Repeated TLR7 Agonist Treatment of SIV+ Monkeys on Antiretroviral Therapy Can Lead to Viral Remission: We saw early results on this at last year's CROI that showed promising results of using a TLR7 agonist to "kick" latent HIV out of hiding.
New Options in HIV Treatment
Each year we get an update on some of the new treatment options in development. Lately, the buzz has been around long-acting therapy that can continue to suppress HIV in the body for long periods of time, replacing the need for a daily pill, and CROI has plenty on that front to anticipate.
- Harnessing Antibodies for HIV-1 Prevention and Treatment: Developing antibodies, specifically broadly neutralizing antibodies, to combat HIV could be the next major development to work in conjunction with a number of other strategies.
- Antiretroviral Therapy: Where Are We Now? Where Are We Going?: This plenary should provide us with a good summary of what our current options are now, as well as drugs in the pipeline.
- Cabotegravir+Rilpivirine as Long-Acting Maintenance Therapy: LATTE-2 Week 32 Results: The much anticipated LATTE-2 study seeks to show whether a long-acting injection of two drugs can effectively suppress HIV in a person's blood, and if so, for how long. These early 32-week results should shed some light on whether we can expect long-acting injectables to be a viable choice for further development. The hope has been monthly or quarterly shotscould replace daily pills.
- Doravirine 100mg QD vs Efavirenz +TDF/FTC in Antiretroviral Therapy-Naive HIV+ Patients: Week 48 Results: Another study on doravirine, which is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) currently being investigated, in particular, as an option instead of efavirenz (Sustiva).
- Attachment Inhibitor Prodrug BMS-663068 in ARV-Experienced Subjects: Week 96 Analysis: BMS-663068, also known as "068" or fostemsavir, is an investigational attachment inhibitor that has continued to show good overall safety and efficacy. The importance of this drug is that it would provide another drug class option for individuals with drug resistance to other classes. Two other attachment inhibitors are available, but they are not widely used.
As alluded to earlier, treatment and prevention go hand in hand, and the sessions at CROI will show that.
- A Phase III Trial of the Dapivirine Vaginal Ring for HIV-1 Prevention in Women: This might be the "star" of the conference this year. If these rings are anything like the silicone vaginal rings we reported on at ICAAC 2015, which can continually stay active for at least 50 days, then we definitely have a strong prevention option for women, assuming the rings are easy to administer and effectively block HIV.
- Safety and Efficacy of Dapivirine Vaginal Ring for HIV-1 Prevention in African Women: This session goes hand in hand with the one above, obviously to further answer questions about safety and efficacy.
- ÉCLAIR: Phase 2A Safety and PK Study of Cabotegravir LA in HIV-Uninfected Men: Just as long-acting cabotegravir is being studied for treatment, it is also being studied for prevention. Here we'll see some preliminary results on safety and potency of using long-acting cabotegravir for prevention.
These are just some of the highlights based on an early look at the program. There were also noteworthy sessions on hepatitis C and HIV complications not included in this preview. Stay tuned for our full coverage starting next week.
Warren Tong is the senior science editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.
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