On Tuesday, University of Minnesota physicians performed a groundbreaking transplant to cure a 12-year-old boy of HIV/AIDS and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
The clinical team composed of transplant physicians Michael Verneris, M.D., John Wagner, M.D., and HIV/AIDS infectious disease specialist Timothy Schacker, M.D. will perform a cord blood transplant aimed at curing HIV/AIDS and leukemia, which involves the use of blood extracted from the placenta after a baby is born.
This specific blood contains a variant of a cell surface protein, known as CCR5Δ32, which prevents most strains of the HIV virus from entering a patient's T cells, ultimately protecting the patient's immune system.
"Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is one of the cancers that occurs more frequently in HIV infected people," said Schacker. "If successful, the procedure will prove that HIV infection can be cured and point to new areas of research that may one day lead to a cure for all patients with HIV/AIDS."
The medical team expects to garner a sense of the clinical outcome over the next 100 days, in which the boy will be in a "high risk period" as treatment can damage organs, bone marrow, immune system – but potentially, the leukemia, Verneris said.
"What we're attempting is a first and potentially landmark case for the HIV/AIDS community," said Wagner. "This now offers patients with HIV and leukemia or lymphoma new hope."
Only one patient to date has been proved cure of HIV/AIDS by a similar transplant. Timothy Brown was treated with bone marrow from a donor in 2007 and called the boy today wishing him well, and hoping that he'd join Timothy in the cured club, Wagner told FOX 9 News.
HIV/AIDS INCREASED IN MINNESOTA IN 2012
A report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) showed close to an 8 percent increase in HIV infections in the state from 2011 to 2012. A total of 315 cases were reported in 2012, and 292 the previous year.
A total of 10,112 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported since MDH began tracking AIDS in 1982 and HIV in 1985.
An estimated 7,516 people are living with HIV in the Minnesota.
More than 1 in 3 reported cases were among 20 to 29-year-olds.