During the latest HIV Cure Summit held recently, scientists involved with researches and clinical trials of various HIV treatments summarized the latest news on this matter. The previous year revealed some significant news and obvious progress with treating HIV and AIDS patients and the plans for the upcoming year are quite big. The final goal remains the same – to design effective and well-tolerated treatment for this disease. That would improve the health of millions worldwide and potentially bring us closer to the definite cure.
At this point, HAART therapy, a combination of several powerful drugs is still in the focus of treatment. The goal is to get the HIV patient into remission, which means to lower his viral load to undetectable concentrations, to free him from transmission and infections associated with HIV. In the case of remission, the patient still has the viral particles present in the body, but the clinical presentation and the risks are fully controlled. The definite cure would free the patient’s body from virus completely.
One of the clinical trials announced for 2017. Is the clinical trial of TLR-7 agonist scheduled to begin in February 2017. After successful lab testing and great results gained after applying this treatment to monkeys, TLR-7 is finally facing real patients. Steve Deeks, MD, the leader of this research plans to include the patients who had viral load lower than 10 000 copies per milliliter before HAART. The antiretroviral therapy will remain in the same regime, but at some point, patients will receive pills containing TLR-7 agonist too. The main idea of the treatment is to boost previously medium T-cell response and use powerful immune reactions to clear the body from HIV completely or at least to keep it from rebounding for years.
The main role of TLR-7 agonist is to target CD4 T cells and “shock” them. CD4 T-cells represent the reservoir of the HIV capable of dodging average immune response and enable virus particles to replicate swimmingly. TLR-7 agonist should target them, present them to other immune cells and enable their destruction by cytotoxic mechanisms of other T-cells. This leads to a decrease of the total viral reservoir, and it boosts, emphasizes natural immune response. So, this treatment does not interfere with viral replication, neither it destroys the virus directly. Its role is to empower the functions of already present immune cells and to ease their targeting and killing infected CD4 cells.
In theory, this approach makes sense, and it fits into some wider proven theories. Also, the treatment passed the lab testing successfully and the lab animals, including monkeys, have shown significant improvement so far. Some human clinical trials have begun early this year, but the results are still not published. The first big trial on HIV patients is scheduled for the beginning of 2017. And the researchers expect some groundbreaking results and changes in overall approach to HIV curing.