The man would be the fourth to be cured of AIDS in the world.
Using a dangerous stem cell transplant treatment, a 66-year-old patient who suffered from HIV and leukemia has managed to overcome both diseases, according to reported researchers from the Ciudad de la Esperanza National Medical Center in Duarte, California (USA).
The man, whose name has not been revealed, is the fourth in the world to be cured in this way, and is now known as the patient of the ‘City of Hope’, in honor of the medical center where he has been treated since his HIV diagnosis in 1988.
Although at the time of the transplant, performed in 2019, it was only intended to treat the patient’s leukemia, the doctors looked for a donor that was naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, a mechanism that worked for the first time to cure the ‘Berlin patient’, Timothy Ray Brown, in 2007.
The patient from ‘Ciudad de la Esperanza’ underwent several rounds of chemotherapy until his immune system was weakened enough for the new stem cells resulting from the bone marrow transplant to take effect and create an immune system to fight the virus. Following that intervention, the patient stopped taking antiretroviral therapy in March 2021. He has now been in remission from both HIV and leukemia for more than a year, the team noted.
The point is that these types of transplants can be deadly, as there is a chance that the body’s immune system will reject and attack the implanted cells. Scientists believe the process worked because the donor’s stem cells have a specific and rare genetic mutation, which causes them to lack the receptors that HIV uses to infect cells.
The doctors, who presented the data to the International AIDS Society (IAS), said the case opens the possibility for older patients with HIV and blood cancer to access treatment, especially since the donor was not a relative. Sharon Lewin, IAS President Elect, described the cure as the “holy grail” and noted that the case provides “continued hope” for people with HIV and the scientific community in general, although it is unlikely to be an option for most patients with HIV due to the risks of the procedure.