Researchers are hopeful of a cure for HIV after treating the first patient with a promising new treatment that could kill all traces of the virus. A partnership sparked by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) UK, is behind this collaborative UK effort for the new treatment, which is a first-of-its-kind.
Six years ago this month, a meeting took place between five leading UK research establishments which resulted in a shared commitment to find a cure for HIV. The researchers identified that while there is research into treatment of HIV, as there is for many chronic conditions, there was no research into eradication of the disease.
Each of the British research institutions present — Oxford University, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, King’s College London and University College London — agreed that they could provide a part of the jigsaw needed to find the cure, but could not achieve this in isolation – and then CHERUB was born.
CHERUB (Collaborative HIV Eradication of viral Reservoirs: UK BRC) is a new approach to HIV therapeutics in the UK.
This collaboration is the most significant attempt to find a cure for HIV in the UK.
And in the six years since, great progress has been made. The ‘Kick and Kill’ study will recruit 50 HIV study participants, in which researchers activate HIV infected cells which are ‘asleep’.
By waking them and treating them with an HDAC inhibitor drug, the body’s own immune system is encouraged to fight the disease.
HIV is a virus infection that is treatable using Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). ART works by stopping HIV from copying itself and spreading. ART reduces the amount of virus in the blood stream to such low levels that it prevents the virus from being passed on to others, and gives the body’s immune system a chance to recover.
But ART alone cannot cure HIV. This is because it only works on HIV infected cells that are active, and most cells infected with HIV in the human body contain resting or sleeping virus. These cells represent an invisible reservoir of HIV, and are one of the reasons it is so difficult to cure the infection. If ART is stopped, usually the virus returns.
Sarah Fidler, Professor of HIV and Communicable Diseases at Imperial College London and co-Principal Investigator on the study, said: “This first participant has now completed the intervention and we have found it to be safe and well tolerated. Only when all 50 study participants have completed the whole study, by 2018, will we be able to tell if there has been an effect on curing HIV. Professor John Frater’s lab in Oxford will lead on the tests and assays to determine if the trial has had an effect.”
Professor Jonathan Weber, Chair of CHERUB Scientific Steering Committee and Director of Research for the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “CHERUB has made great progress since it was born six years ago. We are now actively recruiting patients to test the ‘Kick and Kill’ theory.
“NOCRI was instrumental to this research starting. We are all thoroughly committed to finding a cure for HIV, but if the collaboration between this set of HIV researchers had not been prompted at that meeting six years ago, this simply would not have happened.”
SOURCE: SCIENCE DAILY.