Doctors created a sensation in Düsseldorf (D). They were able to cure a patient of HIV and cancer through stem cell transplantation.
The basics in brief
- Doctors from the University Hospital Dusseldorf have made a medical breakthrough.
- A patient was cured of cancer and HIV with stem cell therapy.
- Gene mutation seems to be the key.
Doctors from the University Hospital Dusseldorf reported in Nature Medicine that they managed to treat an HIV-positive patient with cancer of both diseases. This was achieved with the help of stem cell transplantation. This sensation has now been achieved around the world for the third time.
The research team is now hoping for treatment options for people with HIV who do not have cancer. The focus is on gene therapy approaches. Such a treatment, which worked in Düsseldorf, could already have been applied to the “Berlin patient” and the “London patient”.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) was diagnosed in the ‘Düsseldorf patient’ in 2011, three years after he was diagnosed with HIV. It is a form of leukemia. In 2013 he underwent a stem cell transplant.
“From the beginning, the goal of the transplant was to control both leukemia and HI.” Guido Coppi of the University Hospital Duesseldorf, who performed the operation, explained.
Rare genetic mutation: Central and Northern Europeans only
Stem cells contain a specific genetic mutation called CCR5Δ32 (CCR5-Delta32). This rare mutation occurs mainly in people from northern and central Europe. It ensures that there is no HIV docking site for immune cells.
Without this docking point, the virus cannot find an entry point and cannot infect cells. This makes carriers of the mutation virtually resistant to the pathogen.
In fact, the transplant remission of HIV symptoms, so in 2018 the treatment team decided to discontinue antiretroviral therapy.
53-year-old cured of HIV and cancer
Subsequent observation of the patient over several years has proven to be consistently successful: today scientists speak of a complete recovery in the 53-year-old patient.
Bjorn Jensen, part of the international team of doctors, summed it up: After extensive research, you can confirm that it is basically possible to prevent the proliferation of HI in the long term. This is possible by combining two main methods.
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On the other hand, this is the widespread discharge of the virus reservoir into long-lived immune cells. On the other hand, HIV resistance is transferred from the donor’s immune system to the recipient’s. “So the HI virus has no chance of multiplying again.”
However, such treatment is currently possible for a small number of patients: on the one hand, because the number of suitable donors with the mutation is very small. On the other hand, because stem cell transplantation can only be used in the treatment of life-threatening diseases such as cancer because of the risks.
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