HIV Cured Leukemia by Stem Cell Transplantation

Woman cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant.

A leukemia patient in Chicago (U.S) have become the first woman and so far the third person to be cured of HIV, after receiving a stem cell transplant; the donor was naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS. The case was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Denver of a mixed race, middle age woman. It is the first case that involved umbilical cord blood. Furthermore, this new approach that may make treatment available to more people.

Since receiving the cord blood to treat acute myeloid leukemia, the woman have been free from the virus for 14 months without effective HIV treatment- the antiretroviral therapy. However, the two previous cases occurred in male (one white and one Latino) who received adult stem cells. “This is now the third report of a cure in this setting, and the first in a woman living with HIV,” Sharon Lewin, President-Elect of the International AIDS Society, said in a statement.


This case is a part of a larger study in U.S, led by Dr. Yvonne Bryson of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The objective is to observe people with HIV who underwent a transplant. So the stem cells were obtain from umbilical cord blood for transplant, to treat cancer and other conditions.

The patients first undergo chemotherapy to kill the cancerous immune cells in the trial. Then, doctors transplant stem cells taken from individuals with a specific genetic mutation which lack receptors used by the virus to infect cells. Hence, the scientists believe these individuals develop an immune system that is resistant to HIV. According to Lewin, bone marrow transplant is not an effective way to cure most people with HIV. However, reports “confirms that a cure for HIV is possible. It further strengthens using gene therapy as a viable strategy for an HIV cure,” she said.

Future of Treatment

The research indicates that the transplantation of HIV-resistant is an essential element for the success. Earlier, scientist believed that graft-versus-host-disease was a common side effect of stem cells transplant; played a role in possible cure. In this the donor’s immune system attacks the recipient’s immune system. “Taken together, these three cases of a cure post stem cell transplant all help in teasing out the various components of the transplant that were absolutely key to a cure,” Lewin said.