Doctors in France have found the first evidence that a drug normally used to treat lung, kidney or skin cancer may be able to eradicate HIV-infected cells in people with the AIDS virus.
In a case described as potentially exciting by scientists who also advised caution, doctors said a 51-year old man given nivolumab - sold as Opdivo by Bristol-Myers Squibb - saw a “drastic and persistent decrease” in the reservoirs of cells where HIV normally hides away and evades standard treatments.
The case, at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital AP-HP in Paris, was detailed in a report published where the same doctors also gave a case study of another patient treated with Opdivo who did not show any HIV benefit.
“We must remain careful, especially because this is only one case,” said Jean-Philippe Spano, a professor and head of the medical oncology department at the Paris hospital.
“This is the first case of such a drastic decrease of the HIV reservoir (but) we have...another case where there was no decrease.”
Some 37 million people worldwide have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Scientists have for years been trying to find a way of clearing HIV reservoirs with a view to being able to eradicate the virus completely and cure AIDS.
These reservoirs of HIV-infected cells are found in the immune system in places like the brain, bone marrow and genital tract. They lie hidden and dormant, and can’t be reached with standard anti-retroviral therapy HIV treatments.
If standard treatment is stopped or interrupted, the reservoirs seize the chance and the virus starts to replicate and infect more cells, rendering the patient’s immune system too weak to fight back.