A London man appears to be free of the AIDS virus after a stem cell transplant, the second success including the “Berlin patient,” doctors reported. The case was published online Monday by the journal Nature and will be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle.
The first person ever cured of HIV was in Seattle Tuesday, meeting with scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where they’re in the midst of a $20 million project to defeat HIV for good, and working to recreate this cure for others
“I didn’t think it was possible that a cure was going to happen but it has happened,” said Timothy Ray Brown.
Brown grew up in Seattle, then moved overseas where he was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1995.
But then Brown was diagnosed with Leukemia. Living in Berlin, he went through chemotherapy but it failed to eradicate his cancer.
In 2007, he needed a stem cell transplant. His doctor found hundreds of possible matches, but only one who possessed the mutated gene resistant to HIV.
“So it was kind of weird to hear that a defect was going to cure me of HIV and it actually did,” Brown said. “It’s completely gone from my body. I’ve been poked and prodded from head to toe.”
Brown is now sterile from HIV and back in Seattle involved in a symposium.
Scientists at the Hutchinson Center say they’re thrilled to actually meet with Brown and learn more about what caused his cure and build on it to find a cure for others.
“He really sparked a new direction in the HIV field,” said Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem.
Kiem says it is close to a miracle that one person with the mutated gene matched him as a donor.
“There’s really only about 1% or less than 1% of people with such a unique variation,” Dr. Kiem said.
So now, at the Hutchinson Center where these transplants were pioneered, scientists search for a cure for millions with HIV.
“Now one of the things we want to do now is see if we can take the patient’s own marrow cells and make them resistant to HIV,” Kiem said. “And this is something we do here in my lab.”
And the excitement toward finding a cure is building.
“A cure for HIV is inevitable,” said Dr. Keith Jerome. “It’s going to happen.”
You can learn more about Brown and how he inspires scientists in the quest to cure HIV with cell-based therapies by attending a speech Wednesday night at Seattle University. It runs from 6-9 p.m. at the Pigott Building (901 12th Ave. in Seattle) and is free and open to the public.