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Stem cell therapy against cancer: fifth HIV patient is considered cured

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Stem cell therapy against cancer: fifth HIV patient is considered cured

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Fifth HIV patient is considered cured

As of: 3:25 p.m. | Reading time: 2 minutes

Patient Paul Edmonds (M.) with the doctors Jana Dickter (l.) and Monzr Al Malki (r.) in the “City of Hope” cancer clinic

Source: dpa/City Of Hope

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So far, only four people have managed to suppress both blood cancer and the HIV virus using combined therapy. Paul Edmonds is now the fifth person to be cured – and the oldest so far. However, the therapy is only used to a limited extent.

Transplanting special stem cells has likely cured another patient of both leukemia and his HIV infection. The City of Hope cancer clinic in Duarte (California) said it was the oldest person to date to achieve this. The now 68-year-old Paul Edmonds from Desert Springs is the fifth person in the world for whom combined therapy suppressed both the blood cancer and the virus.

When HIV viruses enter the body, they infect body cells. The 68-year-old had received a blood stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare gene mutation that leads to HIV-resistant cells, as the medical team led by Jana Dickter from City of Hope reported in the “New England Journal of Medicine” (NEJM). Until the treatment, Edmonds had been infected with the virus for more than 30 years.

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The so-called “City of Hope patient” stopped taking antiretroviral therapy against HIV almost three years ago, it said. The case shows that it is possible to achieve success with the stem cell approach even when patients are older and after living with HIV for many years, said Dickter.

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However, for the vast majority of people infected with HIV, this type of treatment is not an option because stem cell therapy is always a high-risk treatment that is only used for very seriously ill people.

Thanks to antiretroviral therapy (ART), most of those affected can now live well with the infection, but they have to take medication for the rest of their lives.

“Berlin Patient”: First person cured of HIV

The so-called “Berlin Patient” went down in history as the first person cured of HIV: Timothy Ray Brown was diagnosed with HIV in 1995, and in 2006 he developed leukemia and therefore needed a stem cell transplant. Doctors at the Berlin Charité found a donor who was missing the so-called CCR5 receptor – a gateway through which HIV penetrates many cells in the body. Brown described the date of the stem cell transplant, February 6, 2007, as his “new birth date.” However, the leukemia later returned and Brown died from it in 2020 at the age of 54.

In the years that followed, the “London Patient”, the “Düsseldorf Patient” and the “New York Patient” followed. All of them received the special stem cell transplant due to a parallel cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 39 million people worldwide live with HIV.

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