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Cancer drug can help find a cure for AIDS

New Delhi, Fri, 09 Mar 2012 NI Wire

There is a significant development in the fight against HIV infection. Researchers have effectively flushed latent HIV infection from hiding with the help of a drug that is used in the treatment of certain forms of lymphoma, a type of cancer that begins in immune system cells called lymphocytes,

The researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have indicated that tackling latent HIV in the immune system is significant to getting a cure for AIDS.

With current antiretroviral therapies can very efficiently keep the virus levels in control; they can’t fully eradicate the virus from the cells and tissues it has infected.

"Lifelong use of antiretroviral therapy is problematic for many reasons, not least among them are drug resistance, side effects, and cost. We need to employ better long-term strategies, including a cure," David Margolis, MD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been quoted as saying.

This new study conducted by Margolis' is the first to show that the biological mechanism that keeps the HIV virus hidden and untraceable by current antiviral therapies can be attacked and interrupted in humans, offering new hope for a strategy to eliminate HIV fully.

In a clinical trial, six HIV-infected men whose conditions were medically stable on anti-AIDS drugs, were administered with vorinostat, an oncology drug.

Recent studies by Margolis and others have shown that vorinostat also attacks the enzymes that keep HIV hiding in certain CD4+ T cells, specialized immune system cells that helps virus to replicated.

In hours of receiving the vorinostat, all six patients registered a noteworthy increase in HIV RNA in these cells, which shows the virus was being forced out of its hiding space.

"This proves for the first time that there are ways to specifically treat viral latency, the first step towards curing HIV infection," said Margolis, the leaders of the study.

"It shows that this class of drugs, HDAC inhibitors, can attack persistent virus. Vorinostat may not be the magic bullet, but this success shows us a new way to test drugs to target latency, and suggests that we can build a path that may lead to a cure," he has been quoted as saying.

The findings of this study were presented at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington.

--With inputs from ANI

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