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Cancer drug offers hope of HIV ‘cure’

A CANCER drug holds out an ‘exciting’ prospect of a ‘cure’ for HIV patients, researchers believe.

Doctors using the immunotherapy drug nivolumab to treat a lung cancer patient, who also had the Aids virus, noticed a ‘drastic and persistent’ decrease in the number of HIV-infected white blood cells.

Usually, the HIV virus lies hidden and dormant in the cells but can re-emerge and spread at any time if the anti-retroviral therapy used to treat Aids patients is stopped. The results of the study are published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

Its editor-in-chief Prof Fabrice Andre, of the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, said: ‘Although this is a single case study, it is an exciting result.

‘Anti-HIV drugs usually stop virus replication but don’t cure the patients who still have reservoirs of the virus. This study generates the hypothesis that drugs that make the virus disappear could, perhaps, cure patients.’

Prof Jean-Philippe Spano, who led the team at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital AP-HP in Paris, said: ‘Increasingly, researchers have been looking into the use of certain drugs that appear to re-activate the latent HIV-infected cells.

‘This could have the effect of making them visible to the immune system, which could then attack them.’