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Tailor-made HIV/AIDS treatment closer to reality

News

Published: 25 Nov 2009

An innovative treatment for HIV/AIDS patients developed by McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) researchers has passed its first clinical trial with flying colours.

An innovative treatment for HIV/AIDS patients developed by McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) researchers has passed its first clinical trial with flying colours. The new approach is an immunotherapy customized for each individual patient, and was developed by Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy from the Research Institute of the MUHC in collaboration with Dr. Rafick Sékaly from the Université de Montréal. “This is a vaccine made for the individual patient – an “haute couture” therapy, instead of an off-the-rack treatment” said Dr Routy.

By “priming” the immune system, as with a vaccine, to fight the specific strain of HIV/AIDS infecting a given patient, the scientists believe they have developed a therapy that shows immense promise and could be an even more effective weapon against the virus than the anti-retroviral cocktails currently in use. The results of the first-stage clinical trials, which tested the therapy in conjunction with anti-retroviral drugs, were published recently in Clinical Immunology. Phase 2 of the clinical trial, which is nearly complete, is testing the therapy’s efficacy on its own at 8 different sites in Canada.

The new therapy uses dendritic cells which are removed from each HIV-infected patient and subsequently multiplied in-vitro. Dendritic cells present material from invading viruses on their surface, allowing the rest of the immune system to identify and attack the invaders. “They are the “grand conductors” of the immune response,” explains Dr Routy. “With them, you push the immune system, in all its functions, at the same time.” In the current trial, dendritic cells were exposed to a sample of HIV RNA (ribonucleic acid) specific to the patient involved. This exposure encouraged the cells to develop defences specific to that viral strain. The modified cells – called AGS-004 – were then injected back into the patients.

Not only were there few reported side-effects from the AGS-004, but the researchers also measured increased levels of CD8-lymphocytes in the patients - the “attack” cells of the human immune system that the treatment is intended to mobilize, thus confirming that the intervention was targeted and controlled.

By boosting the immune system in this way, Routy hopes to develop an HIV/AIDS treatment that will require fewer injections and less long-term toxicity for patients than antriretrovirals.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy is a practitioner in the Division of Hematology at the MUHC as well as a researcher in the Infection and Immunity Axis at the Research Institute of the MUHC. He is also an Associate Professor of Hematology at McGill University in addition to a senior clinical researcher with the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ).

Funding

This study was funded by a grant from the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics (CANVAC), the Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Argos Therapeutics.

Partners

This article was co-authored by Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, Université de Montréal, Mohamed-Rachid Boulassel of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), Bader Yassine-Diab and Oleg Yegorov of the Université de Montréal and Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), Lothar Finke, Don Healey, Renu Jain, Tamara Monesmith ,Charles Nicolette and Irina Tcherepanova of Argos Therapeutics, In, Durham, USA.

You will find this press release, with the original article and a short audio interview by following this link: http://www.muhc.ca/media/news/

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health-care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, the university health center affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The institute supports over 600 researchers, nearly 1200 graduate and post-doctoral students and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge.

The Research Institute of the MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de la recherche en santé  du Québec. For further details visit: www.muhc.ca/research

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. Its partner hospitals are the Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Lachine Hospital. The goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field and to contribute to the development of new knowledge. www.muhc.ca

About the MUHC Redevelopment Project Guided by its mission and its role as co-leaders of the McGill integrated university hospital network, the MUHC is carrying out a $2.2-billion Redevelopment Project that will help the Government achieve its vision for academic medicine in Quebec. Excellence in patient care, research, education and technology assessment will be fostered on three state-of-the-art campuses—The Mountain, the Glen and Lachine—and through strong relationships with healthcare partners. Each LEED®-registered campus will be designed to provide patients and their families with “The Best Care for Life” in a healing environment that is anchored in best sustainable development practices, including BOMA BESt guidelines. www.muhc.ca/construction


For more information please contact:

Julie Robert
Communications Coordinator (research) 
Public Affairs & Strategic Planning 
(514) 843 1560 julie [dot] robert [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">
julie [dot] robert [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca

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