Researchers in a new study showed that a drug used to treat certain types of lymphoma was able to dislodge hidden virus in patients receiving treatment for HIV. The researchers are from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found in a new study.
The existence of persistent reservoirs of dormant HIV in the immune system that are not attacked by anti-AIDS drugs is believed to be a major reason why infection re-emerges once patients stop taking their medication. The disruption and clearance of these reservoirs is critical to finding a cure for AIDS.
Researchers at UNC, working in collaboration with scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health, National Cancer Institute, Merck, and the University of California at San Diego, undertook a series of experiments designed to evaluate the potential of the drug vorinostat, a deacetylase inhibitor that is used to treat some types of lymphoma, to activate and disrupt the dormant virus.
Those patients receiving vorinostat showed an average 4.5-fold increase in the levels of HIV RNA in CD4+ T cells, evidence that the virus was being unmasked. This is the first published study to show the potential for deacetylase inhibitors to attack latency within dormant virus pools in a translational clinical study.
"This work provides compelling evidence for a new strategy to directly attack and eradicate latent HIV infection," said David Margolis, MD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Targeting latency is the first step on a path that may lead to a cure.
"Long-term, widespread use of antiretrovirals has personal and public health consequences, including side effects, financial costs, and community resistance. We must seek other ways to end the epidemic, and this research provides new hope for a strategy to eradicate HIV completely from the body," said Margolis, who led the study.
The study was published in the latest issue of the leading scientific journal, Nature.