- Title: Promising approaches to HIV "functional cure" make their way into human trials
- Date: 1st December 2016
- Summary: BETHESDA, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES (NOVEMBER 22, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MANNI BAEZ, 30 YEAR OLD CLINICAL TRIAL PATIENT TAKING DAILY ANTIVIRAL MEDICATIONS FOR HIV (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANNI BAEZ, CLINICAL TRIAL PATIENT SAYING: "I found out about this on the internet actually. I had read lots of stories lately promising a cure or vaccine for HIV and I felt the need to do something to help. I went to the NIH website and I applied to do a research study and I got matched to this one so here I am." TIGHT SHOT OF IV BAG OF MEDICINE BEING TESTED IN CLINICAL TRIAL SYRINGES (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANNI BAEZ, CLINICAL TRIAL PATIENT SAYING: "It's absolutely mindblowing. It's amazing. Just 20 years ago this was a death sentence and now I treat it as though it's a chronic disease. Just popping a pill once a day and the fact that we are now making leaps and bounds into vaccine and cure studies, it's just, modern medicine is a Godsend."
- Embargoed: 16th December 2016 05:10
- Keywords: NIH Anthony Fauci HIV research National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease
- Location: BETHESDA, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES / TOKYO, JAPAN
- City: BETHESDA, MARYLAND, UNITED STATES / TOKYO, JAPAN
- Country: USA
- Reuters ID: LVA0015AO2T6V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:A surprising study in monkeys involving an antibody used to treat Crohn's disease has raised new hopes for a so-called "functional cure" for HIV - treatments that put their disease in sustained remission - allowing patients to skip the daily cocktail of pills they must take to keep their disease in check.
The study came out of the lab of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease in Bethesda, who is now presiding over a clinical trial testing whether the drug, made by Japanese drugmaker Takeda, can control HIV without the need for ongoing treatment.
The results were so promising that the normally unflappable Fauci personally visited Takeda to deliver the news.
Fauci's study is one of several early stage clinical trials testing new drug and antiviral combinations that could help patients keep HIV in check, raising hopes for a "functional cure" that puts HIV in sustained remission. A second effort combines a therapeutic vaccine from Johnson & Johnson with an immune system booster from Gilead Sciences. Both of these are especially promising because they involve products already tested in people, which could speed up development time if they worked.
Dr. Fauci says what they found in monkey models is promising and now they will see if they can replicate that in this first human trial.
"We clearly induced something in the monkeys that is chronically, over 1 to 2 years, suppressing the rebound of their virus. We don't know yet what that is. We don't know what type of response. It looks very much like some sort of immunologic response we induced that they were not able to induce in their natural response to the virus. We certainly are going to be working in non human primate monkey model as well as in the humans once we get data from this study to try and figure out what the mechanism is but the first and important thing we need to do is see if we get the results in the humans that we saw in the animals and that is the reason you do a clinical trial."
But there are other ideas advancing as well, including studies involving human antibodies that neutralize HIV, and a vaccine that uses a herpes virus to train the immune system to fight HIV.
The research builds on efforts by several teams to produce sustained remission of HIV after suspending antiretroviral therapy (ART). With the exception of one group of individuals in France known as the Visconti cohort, all patients who have stopped taking ART after some form of treatment eventually saw their virus come roaring back.
AIDS advocates are optimistic about the work, but remain cautious, since many promising drugs that have worked beautifully in monkeys have failed to work in people.
"The data is going to determine whether we get very excited about it or not. We don't have any data yet so I am very reserved, very conservative in making any prediction. We'll just need to wait and see what happens in the human system," Fauci said.
Still, they are buoyed by the sheer volume of research moving into human trials. Ultimately, the hope would be that instead of having to take daily medications - a logistical challenge for many patients - patients could get a shot or infusion every few months that would keep their virus in check.
Fauci says advances in the treatment of AIDS have already been astounding in last 30 years.
"We've gone from uniformly fatal living no more than 12 or 15 months to someone living almost a normal life span. If you are in your 20s you will live another 50 years so I would think the advances made in treatment and prevention with pre-exposure prophylaxis are some of the most breathtaking advances in science that have been made in anyone's memory."
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