A cancer drug used to treat certain kinds of lymphoma could help in the fight against AIDS. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say they have successfully flushed “dormant” HIV cells from the body, which could be a step toward finding a cure.
New drug shows promise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 million people around the world are living with HIV. The virus has killed about 30 million people since the disease burst into the medical world in the late 80s.
Currently, patients are given antiviral medications to treat HIV/AIDS, which have to be taken for life. The medication can control virus levels, but never eliminates the virus completely.
“It is the beginning of work toward a cure for AIDS,” David Margolis, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature said.
“Lifelong use of antiretroviral therapy is problematic for many reasons, not least among them are drug resistance, side effects, and cost,” he said. “We need to employ better long-term strategies, including a cure.”
The virus can hide in the immune system, but the drug, Vorinostat, attacks enzymes that keep HIV hidden.
“After a single dose of the drug, at least for a moment in time, it is flushing the virus out of hiding,” Margolis told NYDailyNews.com.
Not a silver bullet
While Margolis is optimistic about this new finding, he is also cautious about the next step. “There is a possibility that this could work,” he said. “But if it is only 99 percent true and one percent of the virus escapes, it won’t succeed. That is why we have to be careful about our work and what we claim about it.”
Further testing will need to be done, but it could take researchers down a new path of discovery.