Cancer drug could combat HIV

A French patient who was HIV-positive and suffering from lung cancer bounced back from both after undergoing injections of Nivolumab, a cancer-fighting drug.
By Rick Docksai | Dec 05, 2017
A drug approved to fight cancer may also be an antidote to HIV, according to a group of French doctors treating a man who had been HIV-positive since 1995. The doctors found that he had a greatly reduced number of HIV-infected cells and a much stronger immune system after injecting him with the cancer-suppressing drug Nivolumab.

"This first report of a successful depletion of the HIV reservoirs opens new therapeutic perspectives towards an HIV cure,"the doctors wrote in a letter to the journal Annals of Oncology.

The patient, a 51-year-old man under the care of the Piti-Salptrire Hospital AP-HP in Paris, was in treatment for lung cancer. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy, but his cancer rebounded less than six months later.

Then he began receiving biweekly Nivolumab injections, according to Jean-Philippe Spano, the hospital's oncology department head. Spano wrote that the patient initially showed increased HIV infected-cell count. But after 31 injections over 120 days, the patient showed a major drop in infected cells and greatly increased activity of certain disease-fighting white blood cells, including the CD8 "killer T-cells.


HIV infects white blood cells and uses them to reproduce new HIV viruses before destroying them. Some infected white blood cells persist in "dormant" states in which they are not producing HIV. The drug appears to "wake up" these dormant cells, causing them to start producing HIV again but also enabling the body's immune system to kill them.


The drug regimen successfully reduced the patient's cancerous cell count, as well, Spano recorded, adding that the patient showed no side effects from the drug.

Spano cautioned that a second HIV-positive patient who underwent Nivolumab injections did not show reduced HIV count, however. The team also wants further study of the drug's postential toxicity for HIV patients.



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