Back

HIV virus hidden in reservoirs destroyed using cancer drug


02/09/2015

NHS Choices

Results from a new study have found that the latent HIV virus can be found and destroyed using a cancer drug. In the early stages of HIV infection, some of the virus effectively goes into hiding in so-called HIV "reservoirs". These viruses are not "active", so standard anti-HIV drug treatments do not kill them.

In this study, researchers found viruses in blood samples from people with HIV infection could be reactivated using a cancer drug. They believe this would mean the viruses could then be identified by standard drug treatments, and killed. The drug did not appear to be toxic to other blood cells, although it wasn't tested on living humans.

While these are promising results, the experiments are at an early stage and it is not known if it would be safe to use the drug in this way for people infected with HIV.

The drug is currently used on the skin to treat a condition called actinic keratoses, which makes it unclear what effects the drug would have if used internally.

This laboratory study found the cancer drug PEP005 may be able to activate latent HIV. This could mean conventional anti-HIV treatments should then be able to eradicate it.,/p>

The drug has so far only shown positive results in the laboratory setting and has not been tested on humans in this way. As such, it's too early to tell if this really will help people infected with HIV to be free of the virus for good.

While these are some positive results, the side effects of this drug in humans has not been fully explored.

There is currently no cure for HIV, but there are treatments that can delay the start of symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there are 35 million people currently living with HIV globally. Even if effective treatments were available, it's wise to practice safer sex using barrier contraception such as condoms.