An HIV patient who also has acute myeloid leukemia has probably been cured of HIV infection after a stem-cell transplant combined with high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy, German researchers report in the medical journal Blood. The stem cells were immature cells with the capability of developing into blood cells.

Although probably not a treatment advance, if the man is really cured of HIV, which appears to be the case, this will definitely represent a scientific advance, the authors say. The procedure may not be safe or feasible for the wider population, they cautioned.

The authors wrote:

    “Our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient.”

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), also known as acute myelogenous leukemia or acute nonlymphocytic leukemia, is a rapidly progressive malignant (cancerous) disease in which there are too many immature blood-forming cells in the bone marrow and the blood – the cells that are destined to become white blood cells that form part of our immune system – granulocytes or monocytes. These immature blood cells (blasts) do not mature and the body accumulates too many of them.

In 2007 the patient stopped taking anti-HIV drugs, had his own immune system effectively wiped out with high-dose chemo- and radiotherapy and also received a stem cell transplant.

The stem cell donor had an extremely rare gene mutation which protects him from HIV infection – i.e. the donor cannot contract HIV.

Although anti-retroviral therapy to suppress HIV had been stopped, the patient has shown no signs of HIV for over 36 months since the transplant occurred.

There was a recurrence of leukemia 13 months after the transplant, the authors informed. He subsequently underwent further chemotherapy and radiation therapy and received another stem-cell transplant from the same donor with the rare genetic protection from HIV.

Even though the stem cells had a rare, inherited gene mutation, the researchers, from Charite – University Medicine Berlin, Germany, had expected the HIV to eventually make a comeback. However, this has not occurred.

“Evidence for the cure of HIV infection by CCR5{Delta}32/{Delta}32 stem cell transplantation”
Kristina Allers, Gero Hütter, Jörg Hofmann, Christoph Loddenkemper, Kathrin Rieger, Eckhard Thiel, and Thomas Schneider
Blood DOI 10.1182/blood-2010-09-309591

Written by Christian Nordqvist