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Remarkable recovery: Man cured of HIV and cancer simultaneously

Remarkable recovery: Man cured of HIV and cancer simultaneously

Image source: © canva
Natalia Witulska,
27.02.2024 16:15

Paul Edmonds, a man from the United States, found himself trapped in a nightmarish situation. A few years back, he received a chilling diagnosis. Not only was he afflicted with HIV, but he was also told he suffered from acute myelogenous leukaemia.

There is a very long list of diseases one would never want to contract. However, it has to be openly acknowledged that both cancer and HIV are usually at the very top. Paul Edmonds, a man from the United States, was told a few years ago that he had both. His life collapsed in a matter of minutes.

Currently, Paul Edmonds is a healthy man with no trace of HIV and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in his body. The medical team that undertook the man's treatment is celebrating a huge success. To commemorate this unusual achievement, the specialists have published details of the special treatment in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Cutting-edge therapy fought HIV and cancer simultaneously

As the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine documented, the medical team treating Paul Edmonds opted for an innovative approach. Specifically, they employed a stem cell transplant, more precisely referred to as an allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant. This procedure serves as the final part of treatment for blood cancers.

Notably, in diseases like leukaemia, the patient’s own hematopoietic stem cells are often depleted due to chemotherapy. Consequently, physicians turn to healthy stem cells from a donor with similar genetic makeup. These donor cells facilitate the production of cancer-free blood.

Innovative treatment

In Paul Edmonds' case, donor-derived stem cells provided an additional benefit. What was it? A genetic mutation associated with HIV-1 resistance. Edmonds had lived with the virus for 31 years before the transplant. Thanks to well-chosen medication, it was able to inhibit its growth.

The therapy is not able to eradicate the disease completely. At least, that is what the doctors thought. As we read on geekweek.interia.pl, the stem cells Edmonds received in the transplant contained two copies of a rare genetic mutation called CCR5 delta-3, which guarantees resistance to HIV infection.

Only about 2% of the population has the mutation mentioned above. As part of a special blood stem cell and bone marrow transplant programme, a donor was found for Paul Edmonds, and this proved to be a breakthrough. The transplant completely replaced the bone marrow as well as the patient's blood stem cells with donor cells. Since then, Edmonds has shown no signs of AML or HIV.

A modern and risky therapy

Paul Edmonds agreed, for science’s sake, to stop treatment for HIV 25 months after the transplant, sciencealert.com reports. Ordinarily, this would have led to HIV RNA levels in his blood rising again. However, this would only happen if the virus was still present in the body. None of this happened.

"At the time of this follow-up, the patient had been free of HIV-1 infection for 35 months after the discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy. This case has shown that older patients who are undergoing reduced-intensity conditioning HCT for the treatment of cancer may be cured of HIV-1 infection," reads the New England Journal of Medicine.

The medical team dealing with Paul Edmonds clarifies that stem cell transplants carry significant risks. For this reason, not every patient will be able to undergo the novel therapy. As we read on geekweek.interia.pl, this is only possible for people suffering from life-threatening blood cancers, with the possibility of curing HIV as a bonus. Specialists hope that the therapy's safety can be improved in the future.

Source: geekweek.interia.pl

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