Scientists find that cancer-fighting drug romidepsin aids in detection of HIV

By Angelica ,

Scientists from Aarhus University in Demark have found that cancer-fighting Istodax, also known as romidepsin and produced by Celgene Corp., activates the HIV virus that hides in CD4 cells. The discovery may put scientists one step closer on the journey to finding a cure for AIDS.

According to Bloomberg, Aarhus University researchers treated six patients with Istodax three times throughout a two-week period.

The drug caused the HIV virus in the patients to begin reproducing itself in cells that contained the virus, making the amount of virus in the cell anywhere from 2.1 to 3.9 times more than the usual amount found. The virus was then able to be detected in the blood of five of the six patients who participated in the study, demonstrating that the virus can be revived from the dormant mode.

HIV hides itself in CD4 cells, making it undetectable at times. T-cells are able to kill cells infected with HIV. However, since HIV can hide well inside CD4 cells, T-cells are often unsuccessful in killing off infected cells.

Luckily, scientists’ findings make a way for T-cells to determine which CD4 cells are infected with the virus due to an alteration to the affected cell’s appearance, which occurs once the HIV is activated, Reuters noted.

Scientists at the AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne, Australia, stated that while the finding is a victory on the journey to find an eventual cure, there is still a long way to go in terms of research and experimentation.

Their next move will be to activate the HIV infected CD4 cells in patients and then give them a vaccine known as Vacc-4x, which is currently being worked on by Bionor Pharma, a Norwegian biotech firm. Vacc-4x will aid T-cells in killing off HIV cells.

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