Novel combination of drugs could eliminate HIV, scientists claim
Scientists at Case Western Reserve University’s medical school have been granted $2.5 million to try pairing two never-before-combined AIDS treatments in a human clinical trial.
The properties – a natural protein that kills disease and a lab-made antibody – have been separately used in HIV-suppressing drugs for years.Our current line-up of medication is highly effective: roughly 30 percent of America’s 1.2 million people with HIV have reached an undetectable viral load – meaning treatment has suppressed the virus to the point it is untransmittable.
But lead researcher Dr. Michael M Lederman believes a combination of these two properties could “produce more of a wallop in tandem than when administered individually.”
“Administered alone, both Il-2 [interleukin-2] and certain monoclonal antibodies can reduce—but not necessarily eliminate— the presence of HIV in the body,” said Dr. Lederman. “Our study will go the next step and use them together.”
IL-2 is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating certain cancers. It activates killer cells and also activates HIV from latency (a positive development since the activated cells die when expressing virus).
Monoclonal antibodies that neutralize HIV are cloned protein antibodies that bind to the surface of HIV and keep it from infecting the body’s immune cells.
They also can help killer cells attack HIV infected cells that have been activated from latency to express virus. The study is set to include 16 patients and begin in the second half of 2017. In the 64-week study, patients in one treatment group will receive IL-2 and those in a second treatment group will receive IL-2 plus a monoclonal antibody that neutralizes HIV. Study participants will be monitored for safety and tolerance by staff members.
The team’s primary aim is to see if the new combined treatment can reduce latent HIV reservoirs – cells infected with HIV but not actively producing HIV.Reservoirs, which are difficult to measure, are present even in cases of treated HIV infection where there are no detectable levels of HIV in the blood. Although not active, the reservoirs are evidence that the infection is not cured since they can be reactivated by any of a number of reasons.
The hope is that the size of the HIV reservoir will decrease in both groups and that the antibody will make the IL-2 treatment more potent. A previous retrospective study suggested that IL-2 treatment could decrease the size of latent HIV reservoirs.
“We think it’s important to try to confirm those findings in a prospective trial and just as important, see if the addition of a monoclonal antibody enhances the activity of IL-2,” said Lederman.
He and his study colleagues are in discussions with the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center to determine which monoclonal antibody to use among several the Center has developed to prevent or treat HIV infection.
*Adapted from DailyMailUK Online