Research Shows Cancer Patients with HIV Can Benefit from Immunotherapy

FEBRUARY 12, 2019
Jennifer Nessel, Assistant Editor
Researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center recently examined whether immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy is safe and effective in patients with advanced cancer who also live with HIV.
Among non-AIDS-defining illnesses, cancer is the leading cause of death in patients with HIV, with many of those affected at an increased risk during their lifetime. ICI therapy offers a new way to treat cancer, yet clinical trials have often excluded those with HIV due to concerns that it may have negative effects, such as virus reactivation.
The study, published in JAMA Oncology, focused on 73 patients with HIV whose cancer had been treated with ICI therapy. The researchers found that patients with HIV did not experience increased adverse effects and HIV remained undetectable in 93% of those with viral load before treatment.
“We hope our finding[s] will lead to increased study of checkpoint inhibitors in patients with HIV and cancer,” lead study investigator Chul Kim, MD, MPH, said in a press release. He explained that the checkpoint inhibitors may not only treat the cancer, but may also restore an “immune response against HIV in patients whose immune system is exhausted by its long fight with HIV.”
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