A doctors’ report showed that two patients have been taken off their HIV drugs after bone-marrow transplants seemed to clear the virus from their bodies.
One of the patients has spent nearly four months without taking medication with no sign of the virus returning.
The team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in the US, caution that it is far too soon to talk about a cure as the virus could return at any point.
The findings were presented at the International AIDS Society Conference.
It is difficult to get rid of an HIV infection because it hides inside human DNA, forming untouchable “reservoirs” in body.
Anti-retroviral drugs keep the virus in check within the bloodstream – but when the drugs stop, the virus comes back.
The two men, who have not been identified, had lived with HIV for about 30 years.
They both developed a cancer, lymphoma, which required a bone-marrow transplant.
Bone marrow is where new blood cells are made and it is thought to be a major reservoir for HIV.
Two patients have been taken off their HIV drugs after bone-marrow transplants seemed to clear the virus from their bodies
After the transplant, there was no detectable HIV in the blood for two years in one patient and four in the other.
The pair came off their anti-retroviral drugs earlier this year.
One has gone 15 weeks, and the other seven, since stopping treatment, and no signs of the virus have been detected so far.
Dr. Timothy J. Henrich said the results were exciting. But he added: “We have not demonstrated cure, we’re going to need longer follow-up.
“What we can say is if the virus does stay away for a year or even two years after we stopped the treatment, that the chances of the virus rebounding are going to be extremely low.
“It’s much too early at this point to use the C-word [cure].”
It is thought that the transplanted bone marrow was initially protected from infection by the course of anti-retrovirals. Meanwhile the transplant also attacked the remaining bone marrow, which was harboring the virus.
However Dr. Timothy J. Henrich cautioned that the virus could be still be hiding inside brain tissue or the gastrointestinal track.
“If [the] virus does return, it would suggest that these other sites are an important reservoir of infectious virus and new approaches to measuring the reservoir at relevant sites will be needed to guide the development of HIV curative strategies,” he said.
Timothy Brown, also known as the “Berlin patient” is thought to be the first person cured of AIDS. He had a bone marrow transplant from a rare donor who was resistant to HIV.
The two US cases both received bone marrow from normal donors.
There was also a report of an HIV cure in a baby born in Mississippi, US. She was treated with anti-retroviral drugs at birth so it is thought the virus was cleared from the body before reservoirs were established.
It is far too early to call this a cure for HIV. And even if it was a cure, it wouldn’t be a very good one.
It is very expensive and often leads to “graft-v-host” disease. There is a 15-20% mortality rate within the first few years after the transplant.
This occurs when new immune cells produced by the graft treat the rest of the body as foreign and attack it.
The two patients in this study have replaced their regimen of anti-retroviral drugs, with those to suppress the immune system.
The procedure was carried out in these patients only because they had cancer that needed to be treated.
The real value of this research for the majority of people with HIV will come from a deeper understanding of the virus and HIV reservoirs.
Good Morning America host Robin Roberts is recovering from a bone marrow transplant after battling a rare bone marrow disorder.
But that did not stop her from attending an intimate wedding for ABC News weatherman Sam Champion and his partner Rubem Robierb on Friday.
Two months after undergoing the operation, Robin Roberts was back on her feet at the ceremony, proudly showing off her shaved and looking radiant in a red sequinned dress.
The resilient GMA anchor, who is also a breast cancer survivor, shaved her head on television in 2007 and wore a wig on air afterwards.
According toPeople magazine, Robin Roberts cheered on Sam Champion and his partner of three years, a fine-arts photographer, as they said their vows at their Manhattan apartment at the end of the week.
The newswoman reportedly read a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning during the ceremony.
Cancer survivor Robin Roberts attended an intimate wedding for ABC News weatherman Sam Champion and his partner Rubem Robierb on Friday
Sam Champion and Rubem Robierb, who met three years ago at a New Year’s Eve party in Miami, announced their engagement this past October.
Surrounded by a small group of family and friends, including Lara Spencer and Josh Elliott, New York State Supreme Court Justice George J. Silver conducted the 10-minute long ceremony.
A larger wedding party will reportedly take place in Miami on New Year’s Eve.
Robin Roberts announced in June that she had been diagnosed with MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease of the blood and bone marrow once known as preleukemia.
The 52-year-old underwent a course of chemotherapy in advance of the transplant later this year in which her sister was the donor.
After undergoing a bone marrow transplant, Robin Roberts was discharged from the hospital a month later.
She was briefly re-admitted when her body was fighting a common infection, but was out of the hospital within a few days.
Although Robin Roberts has been on medical leave since September, she has continued to communicate with viewers through video messages on ABC News and through Twitter. The network also documented her journey for viewers to remain abreast of her recovery.
Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts underwent her bone marrow transplant yesterday, surrounded by her closest friends and family.
The procedure, which saw donor stem cells from her sister Sally Ann injected into her body, took just five minutes, after which the group broke into a rendition of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Robin Roberts, 51, who was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, earlier this year – a disease which attacks blood cells and bone – told GMA afterwards: “I will now wait and anxiously watch and see what happens.
“In the next seven to 10 days my counts will continue to go up and we’ll be on to phase three, which will be get out of here. Get out of here. Go home. It’s a journey.”
Robin Roberts underwent her bone marrow transplant yesterday, surrounded by her closest friends and family
The atmosphere beforehand was informal, with her sister by her side and a visit from her pastor to lead the group in prayer.
On arrival, surgeon Sergio Giralt was greeted with applause. He acknowledged the volume of people in the small room, joking: “What part of <<Let’s not have crowds did we not understand?>>”
ABC News co-workers Diane Sawyer and Sam Champion were among the intimate group present.
Sam Champion told GMA this morning: “It was emotional, scary but at the same time it was exhilarating. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the power and the love that was in that room.”
Though it is expected to be at least ten days before Robin Roberts starts to feel any improvement, her doctors say that she is in good spirits and recovering well.
Oncologist Dr. Gail Roboz revealed: “This morning [Robin] sounds energized and she wants to be out of bed and the end of the email was <<I want to go home>> with an exclamation point.”
The GMA host will be closely monitored by doctors over the next few days, as they wait to see if the new donor stem cells will take hold.
It is also crucial that they protect Robin Roberts from any possible germs or infection, as her immune system has been wiped out in preparation for the new cells, and she is vulnerable until they take hold.
Robin Roberts released a video to fans early yesterday morning, in which she thanked them for their love.
She looked frail in the film, most likely recorded the day prior, after eight days of intensive chemotherapy.
The treatment appeared to have taken its toll and Robin Roberts had clearly lost a significant amount of weight as she addressed the camera.