Fifth HIV treatment – man infected for more than 30 years

Another patient may have been cured of both leukemia and his HIV infection with a transplant of specialized stem cells. City of Hope Cancer Hospital in Duarte (California) claimed to be the oldest person to achieve this to date. Paul Edmonds, now 68, of Desert Springs, is the fifth person in the world to beat both blood cancer and the virus with the combined treatment.

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

Hope for older HIV patients

The so-called “City of Hope patient” stopped taking antiretroviral therapy against HIV nearly three years ago. Dichter said the case shows that stem cell approaches can achieve success even when patients are older and have lived with HIV for years.

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

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

The so-called “Berlin patient” went down in history as the first person to be 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 discovered a donor known as the CCR5 receptor – a gateway through which HIV penetrates many cells in the body. Brown described the date of her stem cell transplant as February 6, 2007 as her “new birth date”. However, the leukemia later returned and Brown died in 2020 at the age of 54.

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In the years that followed, the “London Patient”, the “Dusseldorf Patient” and the “New York Patient” followed. All of them underwent specialized stem cell transplants due to concurrent cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 39 million people worldwide are living with HIV.

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