The LGBT Health & Development Program

Closer to an AIDS Cure, Using a Cancer Treatment

Posted on August 9th, 2012 by SteveDuBois in Research Blog, Youth Blog. No Comments

HIV is a lifelong illness. That is, once you are diagnosed with HIV, you cannot get rid of it and will have to treat it your entire life. In some cases – when HIV is not treated properly or when one’s immune system is very weak – the number of HIV cells in your body increases to the point that you are diagnosed with another lifelong disease, AIDS. Because AIDS is characterized by more HIV in your body, it is harder to treat, and often leads to more serious health complications, than HIV. The good news is: Over the past 25 years, treatment for HIV/AIDS has improved immensely, such that for many individuals HIV/AIDS is a manageable disease to treat.

But, the fact remains that even in the presence of excellent HIV/AIDS treatment, there is no “cure.” This is because even if we remove all the HIV from someone’s blood stream, it still hides out in their white blood cells, where anti-HIV drugs can’t find it. However, findings from a new study (Archin, Liberty, Kashuba, et al., 2012) may shed light on how to find the HIV that hides out in white blood cells. If we can access these HIV cells, we may be able to obliterate the virus altogether.

The researchers in this study used a cancer treatment drug – vorinostat – on 8 individuals with HIV. He found that the HIV hidden in these individuals’ white blood cells “came out of hiding” when treated with vorinostat (See Figure 1*).

Figure 1 courtesy of the National Library of Medicine,

This is a progressive and exciting finding for HIV/AIDS treatment. The next step is future research addressing how to treat this newly “un-hidden” HIV. It is possible that the immune system could kill this HIV, or other drugs can be used to kill it. Follow-up studies are also needed that test vorinostat to treat HIV, especially among more than the 8 individuals tested in this study.




For further information about this study, see:
Archin NM, Liberty AL, Kashuba AD, Choudhary SK, Kuruc JD, Crooks AM, Parker DC, Anderson EM, Kearney MF, Strain MC, Richman DD, Hudgens MG,Bosch RJ, Coffin JM, Eron JJ, Hazuda DJ, Margolis DM. Administration of vorinostat disrupts HIV-1 latency in patients on antiretroviral therapy. Nature. 2012 Jul 25;487(7408):482-5. doi: 10.1038/nature11286.

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