Danish researchers said on Tuesday that they had been able to activate hidden HIV infected cells using a cancer drug, making it easier to then kill the virus in the body.
The findings, made in a clinical trial by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark, were announced at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which began on Sunday.
Ole Sogaard, Senior Researcher said HIV was known to hibernate in so-called “reservoirs” in the body, and re-emerge to infect patients.
He said Romidepsin, a drug used to treat rare lymphomas, was administered to six HIV-positive outpatients on antiretroviral therapy at the university hospital.
“We have now shown that we can activate a hibernating virus with Romidepsin and that the activated virus moves into the bloodstream in large amounts, “he said.
Sogaard said the team found a significant release of viral cells in five of the six patients after administering the drug.
“The data is enough to say it was successful to kick the virus out of the cells,” he said.
Steven Deeks, a leading HIV researcher at the University of California said their work in pinning down the reservoirs was part of a larger study into the possibilities of combining the activation of the virus and a vaccine to strengthen the immune system of patients.
“It means getting the virus out of its hiding place and once we get it we can kill it,” he said.