After more than 30 years since he was diagnosed with HIV, a 66-year-old patient is in full remission after receiving a stem cell transplant meant to treat his leukemia, The Washington Post reported – making him the oldest HIV patient cured.
The City of Hope patient was treated in the US facility in Duarte, California. He is the fourth and the oldest person in the world to achieve long-term remission from HIV.
The patient, who wished to remain anonymous, said in the statement, as cited by the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), “I never thought I would live to see the day that I no longer have HIV.”
According to AJMC, “the patient was 63 when he was treated with a transplant for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The unrelated donor had a rare genetic mutation, homozygous CCR5 Delta 32, which allows those with it to resist acquiring HIV. In their statement, City of Hope officials explained how the CCR5 mutation blocks the pathway the HIV virus uses to attach to CD4+ cells and attack the immune system.”
The therapy is currently unavailable to the great majority of the 38 million people living with HIV, including more than 1.2 million in the United States, since the essential virus-defeating mutation is rare. Bone marrow transplants are likewise very risky and have only been done on HIV patients who have developed cancer.
William Haseltine, a former professor at Harvard Medical School, and founder of the cancer and HIV/AIDS research departments at the university, says that “this is one step in the long road to cure.”
The “holy grail” therapy, as described by Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the Inter ºnational Aids Society (IAS), represents “continued hope and inspiration” for other HIV patients, as well as the scientific community, “although it was unlikely to be an option for most people with HIV due to the risks of the procedure,” Reuters reports.
The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also presented data ahead of the IAS conference, which begins on Friday, demonstrating how the COVID-19 pandemic had stalled global efforts to combat HIV, including a reversal of progress in the world’s most populous region, Asia and the Pacific.
As Bio.News previously reported, the first female HIV patient was cured with a stem cell transplant back in February.