March 19, 2002
Capital Region residents are taking part in a new national study that some researchers believe could lead to a defense against AIDS. To date, some 15 area residents have agreed to take part in the study, which is seeking some 600 participants from across the country, said Dr. Peter Piliero, research director of HIV Medicine at Albany Medical College. "We've just had an amazing response from the community," Piliero said.
The study of Merck's experimental vaccine against AIDS is in its earliest stages, with clinical testing just beginning in human beings. The drug already is generating enthusiasm among scientists because of positive results in monkeys.
AIDS experts from across the country heard of the results at last month's Ninth Retrovirus Conference. "Of course, we need to collect more data and conclude our Phase I studies before we can determine how to move forward, but it's fair to say we are encouraged by the results to date," said John W. Shiver, senior director of Viral Vaccine Research at Merck.
Although the vaccine contains nothing that could infect someone with HIV, it could generate an immune response that can temporarily mimic a false positive test. And theoretically, the vaccine could increase someone's risk of an autoimmune disorder. "There are some unknowns," Piliero said. "You are giving a foreign protein to people that their body could react to in a way we don't expect."
The study involves 17 visits to Albany Med over an 18-month period. Participants receive a $50 stipend per visit. Interested persons should call 518-262-6330.
Times Union (Albany, N.Y.)
03.11.02; Sylvia Wood