A man cured of HIV infection and cancer after a stem cell transplant: Doctors

A 66-year-old man diagnosed with HIV in 1988 is said to be free of both the HIV virus and cancer following a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor with leukemia. Montreal, Canada.

The patient was treated at Hope, one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the United States and one of the leading research centers for diabetes and other life-threatening diseases, the organization said.

The City of Hope patient is reportedly the fourth patient in the world and the oldest patient in the world to go into long-term HIV remission without antiretroviral therapy (ART) for more than a year after receiving stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation.

Jana K. “We were thrilled to tell him that his HIV was in remission and that he no longer needed antiretroviral therapy for more than 30 years,” said Dikter, MD, associate professor of infectious diseases. The City of Hope reported the news in a press release.

According to City of Hope, the patient received a chemotherapy-based, reduced-intensity transplant regimen prior to the stem cell transplant. “Low-intensity chemotherapy makes transplants more tolerable for older patients and reduces the potential for transplant-related complications from the procedure,” the organization said in a statement.

The patient received a blood stem cell transplant for acute myelogenous leukemia from an unrelated donor with the rare CCR5 Delta 32 homozygous genetic mutation in early 2019, the City of Hope reported. This mutation makes people with it resistant to certain strains of HIV.

CCR5 is a receptor on CD4+ immune cells and HIV uses that receptor to attack the immune system. However, a mutation in CCR5 blocks this pathway, stopping HIV from entering cells and therefore replicating.

The City of Hope patient showed no evidence of HIV replication after the transplant, the organization said.

“We are proud to have helped a City of Hope patient achieve HIV and leukemia remission. We are proud to know that our pioneering science in bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, as well as our pursuit of the best precision medicine in cancer, has helped change this patient’s life,” said Robert Stone, President and CEO of City of Hope.

While the announcement offered hope for living with HIV, medical experts warned that the procedure would not cure the virus.

Dr. National Allergy and Disease Director Anthony Fauci urged caution in February after researchers announced that a US woman was cured of HIV after a umbilical cord blood transplant.

“It’s not practical to think it’s something that’s going to be widely available,” Fauci said. “It’s more proof of concept.”

Because a bone marrow transplant is a risky and dangerous procedure, it is unethical to perform it on people with HIV unless the person has cancer and needs a transplant as part of cancer treatment.

Despite the fact that it is not a practical and usable anti-HIV drug on a large scale, there have been amazing advances in HIV treatment and innovation that allows people living with HIV to live normal and healthy lives.

U=U, or undetectable=untransmissible, means that if an HIV-positive person starts proper HIV treatment, takes it every day, and has an undetectable level of the virus in their body, the person cannot pass the virus to anyone. The level will not be determined by the prescribed treatment or medication.

In December 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention.

Until now, the only drugs licensed and approved by the FDA to prevent or prevent HIV were daily pills, commonly known as PrEP, that prevent HIV from entering cells in the body and prevent infection. PrEP services, when taken as prescribed, can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection by 99%, according to new data from the CDC.

A less reliable, but still very effective way to prevent HIV infection is postcoital prophylaxis, or PEP. These pills must be taken immediately or within 72 hours if someone is or may be infected with HIV to prevent the virus from entering the immune cells that cause infection. It is like an emergency pill to prevent HIV and must be taken every day for 28 days.

People at risk of HIV infection can now take a daily pill or a new injection every two months after two injections, one month apart.

On the vaccine front, Moderna recently announced that it has begun early phase clinical trials of an HIV mRNA vaccine. ABC News previously reported that the biotech company teamed up with the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop a shot that uses the same technology as Moderna’s successful COVID-19 vaccine.

ABC News’ Eric Strauss, Sony Salzman and Jennifer Watts contributed to this report.

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