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  • printer1voicenet printer1voicenet Feb 5, 1998 7:09 PM Flag

    Great News!

    Thursday February 5, 6:59 pm Eastern Time

    Drug keeps man HIV-free a year after treatment

    CHICAGO, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A new treatment against the AIDS virus using a decades-old cancer drug has kept one man healthy for
    more than a year after he stopped taking the drugs, researchers said on Thursday.

    ``We were quite excited about this,'' Dr. Franco Lori, co-director of the Research Institute for Genetic and Human Therapy (RIGHT) at
    Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia, Italy, told reporters at a conference in Chicago on HIV,
    the virus that causes AIDS.

    ``The only three patients who have not rebounded after treatment is stopped are hydroxyurea patients,'' he said.

    Hydroxyurea, sold by Bristol-Myers (BMY - news) Squibb as Hydrea, was developed as a cancer drug 35 years ago and is also used
    against sickle cell anemia.

    Lori's team did several tests involving ``classic'' HIV drugs such as ddI, (Bristol-Myer Squibb's Videx) plus a protease inhibitor and
    hydrea to 24 patients. The virus seemed to disappear.

    Using more sensitive tests, they found the virus in the lymph nodes of most of the patients. But a second test on 10 patients who had just
    become infected, and whose immune systems were thus not badly damaged, showed more dramatic effects.

    In two of the patients, no detectable virus could be found in the lymph nodes, and in one there was almost no virus seen in the lymph
    nodes even a year after he went off the drugs.

    Some patients showed a decreased white blood cell count, a team at the University of Texas reported. Hydroxyurea is known to affect
    bone marrow, and they said any bad effects stopped once the drug was discontinued.

    Dr. Jeffrey Galpin of Shared Medical Research in Tarzana, California and colleagues at RIGHT said a 28-week study of 42 patients
    showed that using hydroxyurea with ddI and d4T (Bristol's Zerit) stabilized the immune system. The number of CD4 cells -- the immune
    cells that HIV attack -- rebounded.

    In August 1997, Jorge Vila and colleagues at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Grenoble, France reported that two patients who
    were given ddI and hydroxyurea showed no detectable levels of virus in their blood even 12 months after they stopped taking the drugs.

    A Swiss team said adding hydroxyurea to the mix might be a cost-effective way to give patients triple therapy. The drug is so old its
    patent has run out and it is therefore inexpensive.

    Other experts are intrigued but skeptical.

    ``Hydroxyurea is certainly an interesting drug,'' said Dr. Charles Farthing of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. ``But
    maybe they are just lucky.''

    He and others said they would like to see further studies using more patients.

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