Sexual Health news - HIV

Lymphoma drug may lead to HIV/AIDS treatment

One reason why HIV is particularly hard to treat – and currently impossible to cure – is because the virus has the special ability to lie dormant in the body's immune cells where it cannot be reached by current drugs. The latent HIV cells "hide" in the T cells where it later replicates itself, resulting in a cycle of antiretroviral drugs.

But researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, recently discovered that the oncology drug vorinostat – which is used to treat lymphoma – forces HIV out of hiding.

In a study on six HIV-positive men, authors of the study observed that within just hours of administration with the cancer drug, the subjects experienced elevated levels of HIV RNA in their T cells, suggesting that the medication was effective in coaxing the virus out of latency.

"It shows that this class of drugs, HDAC inhibitors, can attack persistent virus. Vorinostat may not be the magic bullet, but this success shows us a new way to test drugs to target latency, and suggests that we can build a path that may lead to a cure," said researcher David Margolis, M.D.

Authors of the study said that while lifelong use of antiretroviral therapy may result in a longer lifespan and even a good quality of life for HIV patients, it has its drawbacks. For example, the drug regimen is expensive and can lead to side effects or drug resistance, which makes it less effective in the long run.

The researchers said their study provides hope for effective future treatments, as it suggests that viral latency can be effectively and specifically targeted in immune cells.

The findings were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.