PARIS, FRANCE, – A man known as “the Düsseldorf patient” has become the third person declared HIV-free after undergoing stem cell treatment in combination with leukaemia treatment, a new study found on Monday.
Following the high-risk procedure, two other cases of HIV and cancer have been successfully cured in scientific journals.
In a recent article published in Nature Medicine, the details of the cure for the Düsseldorf patient have been revealed.
It was discovered that the 53-year-old man had HIV in 2008, then established a life-threatening blood cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia three years later.
He underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2013 using stem cells from a female donor with a rare mutation in her CCR5 gene. It has been found that the mutation prevents HIV from entering cells.
Following this, the Düsseldorf patient ceased HIV antiretroviral therapy in 2018.
A consistent testing method found no trace of HIV in his body four years later.
In the study, it was found that “this third case of HIV-1 cure” provides “valuable insights that will hopefully help guide future cure strategies“.
– Celebrating ‘in a big way’ –
According to a statement made by the patient, he was “proud of my worldwide team of doctors who succeeded in curing me of HIV — and at the same time, of course, of leukaemia”.
According to him, he celebrated “in a big way” the 10-year anniversary of his transplant on Valentine’s Day last week, adding that the donor was the “guest of honour”.
Two more patients who survived HIV and cancer were announced as having recovered last year at different scientific conferences, but the research on those cases has yet to be published.
Even though HIV cures have long been sought, bone marrow transplants are a serious and dangerous operation, making them suitable only for a handful of patients suffering from both HIV and blood cancer.
Obtaining a bone marrow donor with the rare CCR5 mutation can also be challenging.
Asier Saez-Cirion, a co-author of the study and a professor at the Pasteur Institute in France, said that during the transplant, “the patient’s immune cells are completely replaced by those of the donor, which makes it possible for the vast majority of the infected cells to disappear“.
“This is an exceptional situation when all the factors coincide for this transplant to be a successful cure for both leukaemia and HIV,” he said.