The Grapevine

HIV Cure: Cancer Treatment Administered In London Patient Eliminates AIDS Virus

More than a decade after scientists reported the first person to be cured of HIV, a new study showed that latest tests have cleared the infection on another patient. Scientists described the findings as a proof that a cure for HIV infection is possible.

The study, to be published in the journal Nature, showed the effective use of bone-marrow transplant to clear the second patient of the virus. The same process was used in the first person who was reported clinically cured of HIV. in 2007, The New York Times reported Monday.

Researchers said the new bone marrow gave the patient’s immune cells the ability to resist HIV. The findings come from a study originally intended to analyze the effects of bone marrow transplants on cancer patients.

“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, said. “It’s reachable.”

The second patient, only described as “London patient,” said the treatment showed a potential to cure both his cancer and HIV infection. He described the findings as “surreal” and “overwhelming.”

“I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime,” he said. 

The first patient

In 2007, a German doctor surprised the world after reporting the first ever patient to be cured of HIV infection. 

Timothy Ray Brown, previously described as the “Berlin patient,” suffered leukemia and the infection at the same time during course of the study. But a bone-marrow transplant gave him the mutated protein called CCR5 that blocked the spread of HIV in his body. 

However, researchers only discovered the effects of the treatment after Brown suffered intense complications months after and was placed in an induced coma.

“He was really beaten up by the whole procedure,” Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, San Francisco who treated Brown, said. “And so we’ve always wondered whether all that conditioning, a massive amount of destruction to his immune system, explained why Timothy was cured but no one else.”

But the London patient said the new treatment that cured him did not lead to any near-death experience.

Ravindra Gupta, a virologist at University College London, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, said the new study is a game-changer. 

“Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that you needed to nearly die basically to cure H.I.V., but now maybe you don’t,” he said.