Cancer drug Vorinostat 'flushes' out HIV virus (research)


Researchers have flushed HIV infection from hiding, with a drug used to target lymphoma, a cancer affecting immune cells, potentially opening the way to an AIDS cure.

In a clinical trial, HIV-infected men on anti-AIDS drugs, administered cancer drug vorinostat had, within hours, a significant increase in HIV RNA in these cells, showing that the virus was being forced out of its hiding place.

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Previous studies by David Margolis, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have shown that vorinostat also attacks enzymes that hide HIV in certain CD4+ T cells, specialized immune cells that the virus uses to replicate. While current antiretroviral therapies can very effectively control virus levels, they can never fully eliminate the virus from the cells and tissues it has infected, according to a California statement.

"Lifelong use of antiretroviral therapy is problematic for many reasons, not least among them are drug resistance, side-effects, and cost. This (is) the first step towards curing HIV infection," said Margolis, who led the study. Margolis' new study demonstrates that biological mechanism keeping HIV virus hidden and unreachable can be targeted and interrupted in humans, providing new hope for a strategy to eradicate HIV completely, according to a California statement.

"It shows that this class of drugs, HDAC inhibitors, can attack persistent virus. Vorinostat may not be the magic bullet, but this success shows us a new way to test drugs to target latency, and suggests that we can build a path that may lead to a cure."These results were presented at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington.

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