A man known as the “Düsseldorf patient” has become the third person to be declared HIV-free as a result of a bone marrow transplant that also helped treat his leukemia, according to a study on Monday, February 20, 2023.
So far, only two other cases of cure from HIV and cancer have been recorded in scientific journals at the same time, for two patients in Berlin and London.
Details of the treatment of the Dusseldorf patient have been published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The 53-year-old, who was not identified, was diagnosed with HIV in 2008 and three years later developed acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer that poses a serious threat to the patient’s life.
In 2013, the patient underwent a bone marrow transplant using stem cells provided by a donor with a rare mutation in the CCR5 gene, which limits the entry of HIV into cells.
In 2018, the Dusseldorf patient stopped taking antiretroviral therapy for HIV.
Four years later, the results of the HIV tests that the patient had been conducting periodically came back negative.
The study indicated that “this achievement represents the third case of recovery from HIV,” pointing out that the recovery of the Dusseldorf patient provides “important insight that it is hoped will contribute to directing future strategies related to treatment.”
“I am proud of the team of world-class doctors who successfully treated me for HIV and leukemia at the same time,” the patient said in a statement.
He added, “I held a big celebration on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of my bone marrow transplant on Valentine’s Day, which fell on last week,” noting that the donor “was a guest of honor” at the celebration.
It was previously announced that two other people, the first known as the “New York patient” and the second as the “City of Hope patient,” had recovered from HIV and cancer, in scientific conferences during the past year, knowing that the details of their treatment have not yet been published.
Although the search for a cure for HIV began a long time ago, a bone marrow transplant is considered risky in this case, and therefore suitable for a limited number of patients who suffer from HIV and leukemia at the same time.
Finding a bone marrow donor with a rare mutation in the CCR5 gene is a major challenge.
“During the transplantation process, all of the patient’s immune cells are replaced with those of the donor, which makes it possible for the majority of virus-infected cells to disappear,” said Asir Sass Sirion of the French Pasteur Institute, one of the study’s authors.
“The combination of all factors for the transplant to be a successful treatment for HIV and leukemia is an exceptional case,” he added.