Australia: Research discovers cancer-fighting drug ‘kicks out’ hidden HIV

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A new development in HIV treatment was presented earlier this week at the AIDS 2014 conference in Australia.

Antiretroviral drugs drive HIV down to undetectable levels in the bloodstream so the infected person is able to live a normal daily life. However, the HIV virus incorporates itself into human DNA where it hides and establishes a reservoir, which can activate and flood the system when treatment is stopped.

New research conducted by Aarhus University in Denmark and presented at AIDS 2014, is aimed at flushing out these reservoirs of HIV to make them more accessible to the body’s immune system.

The Dutch team has used the chemotherapy drug Romidespsin, normally used to treat lymphoma. The cancer-fighting drug affects HIV reservoirs in human cells by ejecting the virus into the bloodstream.

Although the virus is successfully ‘kicked out’ of hiding by the drug, the killer T-cells of the immune system are not effectively attacking and destroying the virus.

Dr. Ole Sogarrd, one of the Danish researchers, told the BBC in an interview: “We’ve shown it is possible to kick the virus out of the cells, the next step is to actually kill the cells.”

The next phase of the trial involves combining Romidespsin with an immune booster to encourage an active immune response against the HIV virus.

Many questions remain about how the ejection process works, how many of the virus reservoirs are affected and in which cells.

Regardless of these remaining questions Dr. Sogaard sees the research as a promising step forward in the treatment of HIV. “Every step forward is always exciting, and I think this is quite important … We know it’s a step forwards, but we don’t know how big, it might just be a single step or it could be a great leap forward,”

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