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Can Chemotherapy Drugs Defeat HIV?

Wednesday, 25 Aug 2010 08:35 AM


A combination of two chemotherapy drugs — gemcitabine and decitabine — stopped the AIDS virus in its tracks and caused it to self-destruct, say University of Minnesota researchers. Although the drug combo hasn't been tested yet in humans, the study is promising because it unveils a new way of attacking the virus. In addition, the drugs are already approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"Our goal was to actually look at the already approved FDA drugs to see if we could find any that had anti-HIV activity," researcher Louis Mansky, who has been studying HIV for 20 years, told the Star Tribune. If the drugs prove successful in future trials, since they are already approved by the FDA, many hurdles would vanish, allowing companies to save hundreds of millions of dollars and "speed this entire drug discovery process up."

The HIV virus mutates quickly, and is one of the reasons it's been so hard to cure. But the Minnesota researchers utilized that trait and used it against the virus by speeding up the mutating process to the point that the virus-infected cells in lab dishes died. The combination of two drugs killed the HIV-infected cells rapidly, sometimes as quickly as in a few hours.

Before the treatment can be tested in people, it has to undergo further animal testing, and pill forms of both medications, which are normally given by injection, need to be developed.

Although the results are encouraging, experts are cautious. "There's a long way to go before you can ever use it to help people, but that's a very good start," Dr. Frank Rhame, an HIV/AIDS specialist in Minneapolis, told the Star Tribune.

Scientists have known for years that HIV can grow weaker the more it mutates, and other researchers have tried to get the HIV virus to self-destruct by mutating too quickly — a process called "lethal mutagenesis" — but the drugs were too toxic.

University of Minnesota researchers decided to look at cancer drugs to see if they might have the same effect. "We were trying to purposely short-circuit that long, tedious process," said Mansky, referring to the long, costly process of developing a drug from scratch, by "drug repositioning," which is discovering a new use for a FDA-approved medication.

Mansky and his colleagues began by studying seven cancer drugs to see what effect, if any, they might have on HIV. They found that two worked to reduce HIV's ability to spread, and then found that combining the two was more effective than either drug used alone.

The study was published in the Journal of Virology.

A study in mice is ongoing, and so far, researchers are getting similar results.









© HealthDay

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A combination of two chemotherapy drugs — gemcitabine and decitabine — stopped the AIDS virus in its tracks and caused it to self-destruct, say University of Minnesota researchers.
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