A California man is about to be declared cured of HIV and blood cancer.
Paul Edmonds, 68, who made international headlines last year when he shared his story, still has no trace of either condition after five years.
In a new article from the medical team that treated him, doctors said he was officially cured of cancer and was two years away from being declared cured of HIV, when he would have been off HIV medication for five years.
But Edmonds’ journey has been tumultuous. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, at a time when the virus was often a death sentence.
Despite seeing many of his friends die from the infection, he persevered and lived happily married to his husband until a devastating leukemia diagnosis in 2018 seemed to ruin his future plans.
He was treated for cancer with stem cell therapy, which involves replacing stem cells damaged by chemotherapy with healthy cells from a donor, when doctors saw a unique opportunity to find a donor with an HIV-resistant genetic mutation.
Paul Edmonds, 68 (pictured), became the fifth person to be cured of HIV after receiving a rare stem cell treatment.
In February 2019, Edmonds received stem cells from her donor.
Edmonds is one of only five to have defeated both diseases and the oldest person to do so.
“I’m extremely grateful…I can’t thank them enough,” Edmonds said of his doctors at the City of Hope clinic in California.
Mr. Edmonds, of Desert Hot Springs, Riverside County, received a stem cell transplant, which is the final segment of treatment for blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, in which the stem cells that form the blood in the patient’s bone marrow. by radiation or chemotherapy.
Stem cells are special human cells with the ability to become many different types of cells, such as muscle cells or brain cells.
Healthy blood-forming stem cells from a donor with similar genes are transplanted into the patient, meaning they can begin to create cancer-free blood.
In Mr. Edmonds’ case, the donated stem cells also had a rare genetic mutation associated with HIV-1 resistance.
He was diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in 1988, during the peak of the epidemic in the country, which he said seemed like a death sentence.
“People died within a few years of finding out they were positive,” he said of his experience with AIDS in San Francisco in the 1980s. “A dark cloud covered the city.”
Mr. Edmonds had been receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV since 1997, which had suppressed his virus to undetectable amounts.
But the therapy does not completely cure HIV, so the virus was always present in his immune cells in the blood.
This means that if therapy is stopped, the virus begins to multiply and will become detectable in the blood again.
In 2018 he was diagnosed with leukemia. Older HIV patients often develop blood cancers due to their weakened immune systems.
Mr. Edmonds’ cancer, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), is a type of blood cancer that begins in young white blood cells in the bone marrow.
There are approximately 19,500 new cases in the United States each year.
Symptoms may include ffatigue, fever, ffrequent infections, bwrinkling or bleeding easily, including nosebleeds or heavy periods, and weight defeats.
The exact cause of AML is unclear.
Transplant patients must first go into cancer remission, which typically requires intense chemotherapy to kill cancer cells.
Giving chemotherapy to patients receiving intravenous antiretroviral therapy, as Mr. Edmonds did, can be complicated because the chemotherapy can briefly lower the patient’s immune system.
In November 2018, Edmonds began chemotherapy. He needed three rounds to achieve remission, which was achieved in mid-January 2019.
The following month, Edmonds received stem cells from her donor.
The stem cells they gave him had two copies of a rare genetic mutation called CCR5 delta-3, which makes people resistant to HIV.
Only one or two percent of the population has this mutation.
HIV uses the CCR5 receptor to enter and attack the immune system, but the CCR5 mutation prevents the virus from entering this way.
The transplant completely swapped Mr. Edmond’s bone marrow and blood stem cells for those of the donor.
Since the transplant, he has shown no signs of AML or HIV.
Edmonds is one of five people worldwide who have achieved HIV remission thanks to a stem cell transplant.
“The City of Hope case demonstrates that it is possible to achieve HIV remission even at an older age and after living with HIV for many years,” said Dr. Jana Dickter, clinical professor in City’s Division of Infectious Diseases. of Hope.
“In addition, remission can be achieved with a lower intensity regimen than the therapy received by the other four patients who went into remission for HIV and cancer.”
“As people with HIV continue to live longer, there will be more opportunities for personalized treatments for their blood cancers,” he added.
The case was described in New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Stephen Forman, a professor in the Department of Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, said the hospital “won’t stop there.”
“Our researchers are working on creating stem cells that have the genetic mutation that makes them naturally resistant to HIV, among other research initiatives,” he said.