In 2012, a small study was launched in Melbourne to test whether a drug called vorinostat could force HIV out of cells where it is lying dormant.
The hypothesis being tested was that if ‘resting’ HIV can be driven into the bloodstream then regular ART may be able to clear it from the body.
Twenty PLHIV volunteered to try the drug for 14 days, and the first reported results were presented by Sharon Lewin, Director of The Alfred Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit, at the prestigious CROI scientific meeting in the US in 2013.
Her presentation looked at safety and tolerability, and also what effect the drug had on HIV in the blood and on tissues.
She and fellow investigators found that the multiple doses of vorinostat were safe and that taking the drug did result in an activation of HIV.
However, the results did not show any change in HIV DNA and latently infected cells were not eliminated as was hoped. Additional strategies are going to have to be found for that next step.
This and other studies presented at a special session at CROI have been hailed for their significant efforts to progress a real HIV cure strategy.
A PDF of Professor Lewin's abstract is available for download below.