Scientists attempting to find an HIV cure have turned their attention to progress made in cancer therapy research and development in recent years. Cancer “immunotherapies” are agents that change immune system functioning in order to clear foreign, cancerous cells from the body. HIV researchers speculate that these same agents may be useful in helping the immune system clear HIV-infected “reservoir” cells that linger even in the body even with successful antiretroviral therapy. Research progress is dependent, however, on pharmaceutical companies that develop immunotherapy drugs investing in HIV cure research instead of—or in addition to—cancer research.
“We believe—in our large virtual family of [HIV] cure researchers—that enhancing T cell function may in fact contribute to an HIV cure,” said Steven Deeks, MD, professor of medicine in residence at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s our hope that immunotherapy—as it becomes well-characterized in the context of cancer including how to manage its toxicity—we will be able to, in a few years, translate it to the context of HIV infection.”