Initial clinical trials of the first HIV immunotherapy drug has revealed that it is safe for human use.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina have successfully tested an HIV immunotherapy drug that they have developed, and the results revealed that the drug is safe for humans. The preliminary result from the Phase 1 clinical trial is a significant milestone for the team of researchers who won a $20 million USD grant to make their ideas a reality.
The hopeful HIV cure involves using adoptive cellular therapy to harness T cell responses. The researchers did this by harvesting T cells from a patient. The T cells are then grown in the lab to increase their numbers so they can be given back to the patient to boost their immune system and fight the disease.
“We found that this approach of re-educating the immune cells and reinfusing them was safe, which was the primary goal of the study. The data from this trial will continue to help us design improved immunotherapies against HIV,” David Margolis, co-senior author of the study, explained.
In their study published in the journal Molecular Therapy, the researchers expressed high hopes about the potentials of using immunotherapy in curing HIV positive patients without the risk of death.
“We think that we will be able to replicate the results of the Berlin patient, but that will take a while, on a step-by-step trajectory,” Margolis added.
Timothy Brown, the American famously known as the ‘Berlin patient’, is the only person to ever be cured of HIV. Brown was also diagnosed with leukemia and was later treated with a bone marrow transplant.
Brown was declared free of leukemia after receiving bone marrow from a donor who had genes resistant to HIV. Not only that, following the transplant, the doctors found no trace of HIV in Brown’s body. Brown made headlines worldwide, giving the medical community and HIV positive patients renewed hope of a possible cure.
However, attempts to replicate the treatment have, so far, been futile. It has spurred on other teams to continue the search for the miracle HIV cure, and this new study may just be that.
“This is a promising advancement for the field. The study did not cure HIV and should not be interpreted as doing so, but we also are very encouraged by the safety data, so it should not be considered discouraging either,” Julia Sung, first author of the study, said.