We Need A Cancer Moonshot But Applied To HIV
Cellular therapy tools range from gene transfer technologies, such as lentiviral vectors and RNA engineering, to the more recent precision genome editing systems, such as TALENs and CRISPR/#Cas9 nucleases.
Dr Carl H. June, the director of the Center for Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, spoke at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (2017). His talk focused mainly on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for adult and paediatric lymphoblastic and lymphocytic leukaemias, as well as its promise for inducing functional cures in people with HIV.
Despite the promise, cell therapy research related to HIV remains sparse. Dr June noted that there were 161 CAR T-cell clinical trials for cancer listed at ClinicalTrials.gov on Feb. 14, most them in the United States and China.
“What about HIV?” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s a big goose egg: zero. This needs to change. Right now my message would be that we need to surf off what’s being done in the cancer field and apply those learnings to HIV.”
The results of another trial by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania showed that the treatment “was safe in all patients. The cells persist in our first patient treated in 2009, now more than five years. So gene-edited cells can last for a very long timescale.” Dr June added that data presented in the paper “supports the mechanism that it confers a permanent antiviral effect on the infused cells. It’s the first example of gene editing to induce disease resistance. And I think there are a lot of ways now to make people naturally CCR5 homozygous.”