News / Health

Cancer Drug Unmasks HIV in Immune Cells

A member of the audience looks at slides during a speech given by leading AIDS vaccine official in Washington, July 25, 2012.
A member of the audience looks at slides during a speech given by leading AIDS vaccine official in Washington, July 25, 2012.
Jessica Berman
WASHINGTON — People infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, must take anti-retroviral drugs for the rest of their lives in order to control their disease. 

Otherwise, reservoirs of dormant virus hiding within the immune system can become active, and the infection can reemerge. Now, researchers have discovered that a cancer drug can dislodge these latent copies of the AIDS virus. They view the development as a critical step toward curing HIV-infected people.

HIV has evolved a way to survive inside the human body by integrating itself into the genetic architecture of immune-system T-cells, the specialized white blood cells targeted by the AIDS virus. Anti-retroviral drugs can suppress HIV to near undetectable levels, giving the immune system a chance to repair itself. But the AIDS virus is always lurking in miniscule numbers - roughly one in every million T cells - and threatening to come back to life should an individual ever stop taking the anti-retroviral cocktail.  

Now, researchers have succeeded in flushing this latent virus out of its hiding place, with a drug used to treat lymphoma, a rare and potentially deadly cancer of the lymphatic system.  

David Margolis, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has been studying how HIV hides, dormant, within immune-system cells, says that in some lymphomas, the drug, vorinostat, makes cancer cells die. But Margolis adds that in HIV-infected cells, the cancer drug causes the latent virus to show itself.

“Theoretically, doing this clinically would be a way to sort of unmask the hidden virus; flush the virus out of hiding," he says. "And that might then allow us to develop ways to get rid of the leftover virus in people that are on treatment so they could stop treatment and there would be nowhere for the virus to come back from.”

Margolis and his colleagues studied eight HIV-infected patients who were medically stable on anti-retroviral therapy. Their levels of HIV CD4 T cells, which the virus uses to reproduce itself, were measured both before and after the men were given vorinostat.

“What we saw in every single person was a tiny amount of virus detectable before the dose of the drug," he says. "And the amount of virus that was detectable went up on average about five-fold, five times, after a single exposure to the drug.”

Margolis says his so-called “proof of concept” experiment demonstrates that HIV can be flushed out of hiding with vorinostat and then targeted for destruction by anti-AIDS drugs.

But none of the participants was cured, he adds.

Margolis was joined in the work by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, Harvard University School of Public Health in Massachusetts, the University of California San Diego and Merck and Company, the maker of vorinostat.

Their article on the use of the cancer drug vorinostat in the treatment of HIV was published in the journal Nature.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs