A type of cancer treatment could be key in the fight to end HIV.
Radioimmunotherapy, which is already widely used against cancer, is also effective at killing HIV-infected cells.
According to a new study in blood samples, researchers found HIV infection was reduced to undetectable levels after they administered radioimmunotherapy to HIV-infected white blood cells, in blood samples from people who already received highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
They believe by using a therapy generally used for cancer treatment, lingering HIV could be permanently eradicated.
‘There have been major strides in HIV treatment that slow disease progression, but we’re still searching for a permanent cure,’ said research leader Ekaterina Dadachova, a radiology, microbiology and immunology professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
‘To combat HIV, we need a method that will completely eliminate all HIV-infected cells without damaging non-infected cells.’
Nearly nine million adults worldwide living with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy.
But while HAART keeps the virus from multiplying, it does not cure patients because it cannot completely eliminate the HIV-infected cells in which the virus can replicate.
Dadachova presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
She said she had found radioimmunotherapy offers ‘real potential for being developed into an HIV cure.’
In radioimmunotherapy, radioactive isotopes attached to antibodies selectively target and destroy cells.
After the antibodies deliver the radioisotope to a specific target, such as a cancer cell, the radioisotope delivers a lethal dose of radiation without harming healthy cells.
‘The elimination of HIV-infected cells with RIT was profound and specific,’ Dadachova added.
‘The radionuclide we used delivered radiation only to HIV-infected cells without damaging nearby cells.’
As the study was only conducted in blood samples and lab models, the next step will be to test the treatment on humans.