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Groundbreaking HIV cure study begins in 2017. Updates from the 2016 HIV Cure Summit [part 3]

, by Emily Newman

“Shock and kill” strategies are moving from the research lab to the clinic, in efforts to find an effective, well-tolerated cure for HIV. Only one person, Timothy Ray Brown, who is known as the “Berlin patient,” has ever been cured of HIV.

Read more about the science behind a cure for Timothy Ray Brown, who received a bone marrow treatment for leukemia that also cured his HIV.  

At this point in time, the goal of HIV cure research is to force HIV into “remission.” In this scenario, the person might still have HIV present in their body but would maintain an undetectable viral load without antiretrovirals, would not have to worry about transmission, and would not suffer from HIV-associated inflammation. Once this is achieved, researchers might then be able to work toward a sterilizing HIV cure—or one that completely eliminates every HIV infected cell from a person’s body.

Steve Deeks, MD

Steve Deeks, MD

Steve Deeks, MD, reported at the 2016 HIV Cure Summit that his team is moving forward with a study of a TLR-7 agonist (GS9620), which should begin in early 2017.

The study will include people who had a viral load below 10,000 copies/mL (but were detectable) before they started antiretroviral therapy. While continuing antiretroviral therapy, participants will take GS9620 (which is a pill).

“We’re seeing if we can take someone with a medium T-cell response, and make it more powerful. We think if we can do that, and we stop therapy, the virus won’t rebound. Importantly, we think that if we do this during therapy, the virus that’s there will get eliminated and you will get a smaller reservoir size,” said Deeks.

In theory, TLR-7 agonists may help cure HIV by targeting, or “shocking” CD4 cells that are part of the viral reservoir. In the normal course of infection, these cells are able to “hide” from the body’s immune system. TLR-7 agonists may help bring these cells out of latency, making them visible to the immune system which can target and kill them.

TLR-7 has shown to be effective in helping to reduce the size of the viral reservoir—and control HIV infection—when tested in monkeys. Results from testing of GS-9620 in humans have not been released, although studies began earlier in 2016.

“What we hope might happen is that as a consequence of this intervention, HIV specific T cells which are present will become much more effective, [so that] you can stop therapy, and the virus won’t rebound,” said Deeks.

Interested in participating in an HIV clinical trial or HIV cure study? Find out how to participate from the latest edition of HIVresource.

 

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