A Merck & Co. (MRK) drug for a rare type of cancer flushed out hidden deposits of HIV in a study, according to researchers who say the results provide a hint that curing AIDS may someday be possible.
The finding on Merck’s Zolinza, reported today in the journal Nature, comes as researchers at the International AIDS Conference in Washington this week express optimism a cure is on the horizon. While current treatments hold the disease at bay, stopping the drugs can be a death sentence since it allows infected cells that remain hidden within the immune system to re-emerge, spreading the virus anew.
A single dose of Zolinza reactivated the hidden cells in eight infected patients, a first step toward finding and eliminating all virus traces from the body, according to investigators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck who undertook the research.
“If we ever have a cure for AIDS, a big part of it will be this type of strategy,” said Steven Deeks, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who wasn’t involved in the study. “It’s all about getting the virus out of the hiding place and coming up with a way to kill it.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Langreth in New York at email@example.com
Shannon Pettypiece in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org