66-year-old HIV patient becomes oldest person to recover from stem cell transplant

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The oldest patient has recovered from HIV after a stem cell transplant for leukemia, researchers reported on Wednesday.

While the transplant was planned to treat the 66-year-old man’s leukemia, doctors were also looking for a donor who would be naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, a mechanism that first worked to cure “Berlin Patient”Timothy Ray Brown, 2007

The last patient, the fourth to be cured in this way, is known as the “City of Hope” patient, after the American institution in Duarte, California where he was treated, because he does not want to be identified.

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In addition to being the oldest, the patient was also the longest-serving HIV patient: in 1988, he was diagnosed with what he called a “death sentence” that killed many of his friends.

he was on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to control his condition for over 30 years.

The patient was cured of HIV after refusing a stem cell transplant for leukemia.  The patient is the oldest person yet to be cured in this way.  In the photo: a cell infected with HIV particles.

The patient was cured of HIV after refusing a stem cell transplant for leukemia. The patient is the oldest person yet to be cured in this way. In the photo: a cell infected with HIV particles.

The doctors, who released the data ahead of the International AIDS Society (IAS) meeting in 2022, said the case opened up an opportunity for older patients with HIV and blood cancer to access treatment, especially if the donor was not a family member.

Calling the drug the “Holy Grail”, Sharon Levin, president-elect of the IAS, said the case provides “continuous hope…and inspiration” to people with HIV and the wider scientific community, although it is unlikely to be an option for most people with HIV due to procedure risks.

Scientists believe the process works because the donor’s stem cells have a specific, rare genetic mutation that means they don’t have the receptors that HIV uses to infect the cells.

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After a transplant three and a half years ago that followed chemotherapy, the City of Hope patient stopped taking ART in March 2021. According to the team, he is currently in remission from both HIV and leukemia.

On Wednesday, researchers in Spain also provided details about a 59-year-old woman who is one of a rare group of so-called “post-treatment controllers”. They can maintain an undetectable viral load after stopping ART, Levin says, and also provide clues to a potential cure.