London. The oldest patient to date was cured of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after receiving a stem cell transplant for leukemia, researchers announced yesterday.
While the transplant was designed to treat the now 66-year-old’s leukemia, doctors also looked for a donor who was naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, a mechanism that first worked to cure the “Berlin patient.” ”, Timothy Ray Brown, in 2007.
The fourth patient to be cured by this technology is known as the “City of Hope” after the American center in Duarte, California, where he was treated, because he does not want to be identified.
As well as being the oldest, he has also had HIV the longest, having been diagnosed in 1988 with what he described as a “death sentence” that killed many of his friends.
The man has been on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to control his condition for more than 30 years.
Doctors presenting the data ahead of the 2022 International AIDS Society (IAS) meeting said the case opened up the possibility for older HIV patients with blood cancers to access treatment, particularly as the stem cell donor he was not a member of the family.
Describing the cure as the Holy Grail, Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS, explained that the case provides “constant hope… and inspiration” to people with HIV and the scientific community in general, although it is unlikely to be an option. for most cases due to the risks of the procedure.
Scientists believe the process works because the donor’s stem cells have a rare and specific genetic mutation, meaning they lack the receptors that HIV uses to infect cells.
Following his transplant three and a half years ago, which followed chemotherapy, the City of Hope patient came off antiretroviral treatment in March 2021. He has been in remission from both HIV and leukemia for more than a year, the team reported.
Yesterday, researchers in Spain also presented details of a 59-year-old woman, part of a rare group known as “low post-treatment control”. These people may maintain undetectable viral loads after stopping antiretroviral therapy and could offer clues to a possible cure, Lewin said.
The Hospital Clínic-Idibaps, in Barcelona, achieved the “exceptional case” of functional cure of AIDS, with a patient who, after stopping antiretroviral treatment, has absolute control of HIV reproduction maintained for more than 15 years, with undetectable viral load and without taking medication against the virus.
For the researchers, this case of functional cure opens the door to the development of new potential treatment strategies in order to increase the activity of the cells involved in the patient’s innate response to the virus.
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