New research conducted by the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) revealed a surprising fact. Namely, scientists just found out that anti-cancer immunotherapy might also be useful against HIV. In their new study issued in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers noticed that this form of therapy against cancer reveals HIV within the cells of people living with the virus to the immune system.
The worst thing with HIV is that the virus hides from the immune system, so our body’s natural defense mechanism has no clue about which cells to attack.
“We identified the mechanism by which anti-cancer immunotherapy ‘awakens’ the virus from its hiding places and reduces the size of HIV reservoirs in people on triple therapy. Although most of our experiments have been performed in vitro, our approach could lead to the development of new therapies,” explained Nicolas Chomont from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM).
Anti-cancer Immunotherapy Might Be Useful Against HIV, Too
Those HIV reservoirs that Chomont mentioned are those cells and tissues where the virus remains hidden even though triple therapy is applied. By using anti-cancer immunotherapy, the scientists reveal HIV from the so-called HIV reservoirs to the immune system which can attack those infected cells.
“Our results prove that immunotherapies targeting molecules such as PD-1 could reduce the amount of virus persisting in people on triple therapy. One of the next steps would be to combine immunotherapy with molecules that, up to now, have been ineffective in eradicating HIV reservoirs. This combination of immunotherapy and chemical molecules could ‘awaken’ the virus and help remove the cells infected by HIV,” Nicolas Chomont said.
“The size of the patient’s HIV reservoirs decreased significantly, which is encouraging. However, we must remain cautious, because this doesn’t work with all patients. These treatments also cause considerable side effects,” reported Remi Fromentin, one of the study’s authors, referring to one patient with HIV who received treatment with anti-cancer immunotherapy.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.