A meeting held in Paris by scientists suggests that the effort towards boosting the immune system to fight cancer may give a solution to HIV. The human body naturally struggles to defend itself against HIV and cancer, but the increase in immunotherapy and its study has alleviated some patients living with cancer somewhat.

However, speculations are that such case would apply to HIV. If HIV is left unattended, it can damage the immune system and deteriorate to AIDS. As such, a person living with HIV requires daily antiretroviral drugs to get rid of any active virus.

At the moment, complete cure of HIV is not possible because there are no drugs to detect the hidden and latent HIV in the human body cells. The co-discoverer of HIV and Nobel Prize winner, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi speaking to BBC, said that one of the reasons why the latently infected body cells seem difficult to treat is that they increase in number quickly just like tumor cells.

Those proliferating cells express molecules similar to that expressed on tumor cells. As such, speculations are growing high as regards the possibility of developing a means of curing HIV identical to the new treatment in the field of cancer.

She said that there are lots of similarities – cancers turn out ways to survive the activities of the immune system. They can stimulate the production of proteins such as PD-L1 on their surface to nullify the operations of the immune system on the tumor.

A novel class of immunotherapy pills known as Checkpoint Inhibitors makes the immune system to keep on fighting, and the results have been evident. In a trial, a fifth of patients who took the immunotherapy drugs recorded no sign of the terminal melanoma, but they had it present before the therapy.
However, about 50 persons living with HIV have been issued the immunotherapy to cure their cancer.

Effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs on HIV has little evidence

Prof Lewin kicked off the lab research, hoping that immunotherapy drugs could revitalize an already weak immune system to continue fighting HIV. She said that the part of immune system that often fights notice HIV are weak T-cells, they denote the immune checkpoint markers.

Lewin said that when those cells are placed with immune checkpoint blocker, the T-cells recover its function. She added that evidence showed that the drug activated dormant HIV cells in the immune cells. The aim is that virus wakes up and gets killed by the antiretroviral drugs.

She pointed out that the movement is a new one that has yielded nothing for HIV patients. And differences between HIV immunology and cancer challenges exist.

The difference

In the case of cancer, the immune system recognizes the antibodies but cannot do anything about it, but the immune cannot identify latent ly infected HIV body cells.

The head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the area is extremely hot in cancer presently. However, he warned that we shouldn’t assume that things that proved decisive in cancer are going to prove the same in HIV.
He added that Cancer is very different, and he wouldn’t want people to think that explorations in that area would be successful in HIV too.