‘City of Hope’ patient, 66, is cured of HIV after receiving dangerous stem cell treatment

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A fourth person, named only as a ‘City of Hope’ patient, has been cured of HIV using a very dangerous stem cell treatment reserved only for patients who are also battling leukemia.

The unnamed 66-year-old man, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, was treated at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, which earned him his nickname. He received a blood stem cell transplant in early 2019 and has not shown any evidence of HIV replication in his body since. He has now been off HIV medication for 17 months.

The transplant is extremely dangerous and requires doctors to find a donor with a rare genetic mutation that makes them resistant to the virus. Therefore, it is only reserved for HIV patients who also suffer from late-stage cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, like many others, I thought it was a death sentence,” the man said in a statement from the hospital. ‘I never thought that I would live to see the day that I no longer have HIV. City of Hope made that possible, and for that I am immensely grateful.’

However, researchers are still hopeful that this success could have a wider impact and help many other elderly HIV patients who are also suffering from blood cancers at the same time.

The 'City of Hope' patient, named after the hospital in California where he is being treated, is functionally cured of both HIV and his leukemia after successful stem cell treatment (file photo)

The ‘City of Hope’ patient, named after the hospital in California where he is being treated, is functionally cured of both HIV and his leukemia after successful stem cell treatment (file photo)

The hospital reports that the 66-year-old patient had been suffering from HIV since 1988 – more than 30 years ago.

He has taken antiretroviral therapy drugs to control the condition and prevent it from developing into AIDS.

His AIDS diagnosis was the longest of all others who were also cured of their illness by the successful transplant.

After receiving reduced-intensity chemotherapy treatments that would make the transplant more tolerable, the man received a blood stem cell transplant in early 2019.

The donor, who is also not named by name, is unrelated to the male but has a rare genetic mutation called homozygous CCR5 Delta 32.

People who have the mutation have a natural resistance to HIV because they have a CCR5 receptor on their immune cells that can block the pathways the virus needs to replicate.

These types of transplants can be fatal because there is a chance that the body’s immune system will reject the implanted cells and start attacking them.

City of Hope doctors found success, and within a few years, both the man’s cancer and HIV were gone.

“We were pleased to let him know that his HIV is in remission and that he no longer needs to take the antiretroviral therapy he had been on for over 30 years,” Dr. Jana Dickter, an associate professor at City of Hope in the Division of Infectious Diseases, said during a presentation of the case at the AIDS 2022 conference.

The treatment is incredibly risky because the body can reject the implants, causing the patient to die.  Because of these concerns, it should only be used in people who are already at risk of dying from a severe case of cancer (file photo)

The treatment is incredibly risky because the body can reject the implants, causing the patient to die.  Because of these concerns, it should only be used in people who are already at risk of dying from a severe case of cancer (file photo)

The treatment is incredibly risky because the body can reject the implants, causing the patient to die. Because of these concerns, it should only be used in people who are already at risk of dying from a severe case of cancer (file photo)

Official figures estimate that about 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, but one in eight cases remain undiagnosed (file photo)

Official figures estimate that about 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, but one in eight cases remain undiagnosed (file photo)

Official figures estimate that about 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, but one in eight cases remain undiagnosed (file photo)

Thousands more Americans may be living with HIV after testing was curtailed during the pandemic

Thousands more Americans may be living with undiagnosed HIV than before Covid struck, official figures have suggested, as a warning sign that the devastating virus is spreading again in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) annual surveillance report reports that new diagnoses have fallen by about two percent each year since 2016. But in 2020, the latest available data, they fell 17 percent to 30,000 new cases — that was 5,000 less than would be expected based on previous trends.

At the same time, the number of CDC-funded smears for the virus fell by half from 2.4 to 1.2 million, one of the lowest numbers on record, leading officials to fear many cases have gone undetected.

In its report, the agency said the “solid decline” in new cases was “probably due to disruptions in clinical care, patient hesitation… and shortages of HIV testing reagents/materials.” Bruce Packett, director of the American Academy of HIV medicine, told DailyMail.com it was “highly likely” that thousands of cases had been missed.

He warned that — in line with other sexually transmitted diseases — HIV cases could now be “level” or “even increasing,” reversing the gradual decline over the past four years. The CDC warns that other STDs such as gonorrhea and syphilis may already be at record highs.

America is currently aiming to eradicate HIV transmission in just eight years, but experts say that while this was the “right” goal to fight it, the pandemic has “turned back.”

“He saw many of his friends die of AIDS in the early days of the disease and was so stigmatized when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1988. But now he can celebrate this medical milestone.”

Robert Stone, President and CEO of City of Hope, said: “We are proud to have played a role in helping the City of Hope patient achieve remission for both HIV and leukemia. It’s humbled to know that our pioneering science in bone marrow and stem cell transplants, along with our pursuit of the best precision cancer medicine, helped transform this patient’s life.

“The entire City of Hope team is honored to make a difference every day in the lives of people living with cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.”

The latest official data shows estimates that 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV, and about one in eight do not know they are infected.

There were approximately 34,800 new infections in 2019. While the figure is high, it is still about 70 percent less than the peak of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The figure has also gradually declined over time.

Many take antiretroviral drugs that prevent the virus from developing into full-blown AIDS, but have to live with HIV for the rest of their lives.

While this treatment shows promise and can give hope to many of the people who suffer, its uses are relatively limited.

The danger of the procedure means that it is only ethical to perform it on people who are already likely to die anyway.

Still, experts are hopeful that the breakthroughs made in recent months will make it possible to get better treatments for the virus.

“The case of the City of Hope patient, if the right donor can be identified, could provide an opportunity for more elderly patients with HIV and blood cancer to undergo a stem cell transplant and go into remission for both diseases,” Dickter said. .

The first man to successfully receive this treatment was Timothy Ray Brown — dubbed the “Berlin Patient” — whose bone marrow transplant in 2007 rid his body of the virus.

Although he has since died of cancer, his story was a breakthrough in HIV treatment and provided the basis for future findings.

Other forms of treatment are also under development. A New York woman received a ‘haploidentical cord transplant’, which uses cord blood and bone marrow from the donor.

Her body responded well to the treatment, the doctors report, and she quickly saw positive results.

Despite the fact that HIV treatment was stopped more than a year ago, the virus has not reappeared in her. Repeated scans of her body show no HIV cells with the potential to replicate and her cells could not be infected in a lab setting.

Like the City of Hope patient, the procedure performed on her is risky and cannot be repeated in patients who are not already in a difficult situation.

WHY MODERN MEDS MEAN HIV IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE

Before 1996, HIV was a death sentence. Then antiretroviral therapy (ART) was made to suppress the virus. Now a person can live as long as anyone else, despite having HIV.

Drugs have also been invented to lower an HIV-negative person’s risk of contracting the virus by 99%.

Research has shown in recent years that ART can suppress HIV in such a way that the virus cannot be passed on to sexual partners.

That has sparked a movement to lower the crime of infecting a person with HIV: The victim gets lifelong, expensive drugs, but it doesn’t mean certain death.

Here’s more about the new life-saving and preventive drugs:

1. Medicines for HIV-positive people

It suppresses their viral load so that the virus is not transferable

In 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART) was discovered.

The drug, a triple combination, turned HIV from a fatal diagnosis to a manageable chronic condition.

It suppresses the virus and prevents it from developing into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), which makes the body not resistant to infections.

After taking the daily pill religiously for six months, it suppresses the virus to such an extent that it is undetectable.

And once someone’s viral load is undetectable, they can’t transmit HIV to someone else, according to dozens of studies, including a 10-year study by the National Health Institutes.

Public health authorities around the world now recognize that U=U (undetectable equals non-transmissible).

2. Medicines for HIV Negative People

It is 99% effective in preventing HIV

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) became available in 2012.

This pill works like ‘the pill’ – it is taken daily and is 99 percent effective at preventing HIV infection (more effective than the contraceptive pill at preventing pregnancy).

It consists of two drugs (tenofovir dosproxil fumarate and emtricitabine). Those drugs can trigger an immediate attack on any trace of HIV that enters the person’s bloodstream before it can spread throughout the body.

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