Scientists Banking on Treatment of “Sanctuary Cells” Lead to HIV Cure

A team of Canadian and American researchers have found a new way to fight, and possibly eradicate, HIV.  The new method combines antiretroviral therapy, which is the current treatment for HIV, with what they refer as "intelligent targeted chemotherapy."

Introduced in the mid-1990s, antiretroviral treatment aims to block the virus.  It has enabled patients with HIV to live longer instead of dying within the next five years.  However, this treatment only diminishes the number of HIV-infected cells in the body and never eliminates them.  Also, patients would have to undergo antiretroviral treatment for the rest of their lives, which can be expensive in the long run.

"The minute the patient stops taking the therapy, the virus is reborn," said Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, associate professor of hematology at McGill University in Montreal.  "Then, the immune system is destroyed and the patient becomes sick again."

The re-infection occurs because the HIV in their system feeds from a reservoir of the virus found within a cell.  This is what researchers refer to as a sanctuary for HIV, which are unaffected by antiretroviral therapy even in increased dosages.  However, researchers were able to attack these sanctuary cells filled with dormant HIV through chemotherapy.

A study will be conducted in September using patients with HIV who have been using antiretroviral therapy to test the validity of the results.

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