Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine will use a $2.5 million grant from Gilead Sciences to investigate whether a combination of two separate HIV therapies will be more effective in reducing latent HIV reservoirs than either treatment alone, according to a press release.
Michael M. Lederman, MD, Scott R. Inkley Professor of Medicine, and colleagues will combine interleukin-2 (IL-2) — a protein that stimulates natural killer-cells — with an engineered monoclonal antibody that targets HIV.
“Administered alone, both IL-2 and certain monoclonal antibodies can reduce — but not necessarily eliminate — the presence of HIV in the body,” Lederman said in the release. “Our study will go to the next step and use them together. We want to see if they produce more of a wallop in tandem than when administered individually.”
IL-2 activates latent HIV reservoir and natural killer cells that target the virus. The protein previously showed promise in reducing viral reservoirs during a retrospective study, the release said. It is also approved by the FDA as a treatment for certain cancers.
HIV-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies are cloned protein antibodies that bind to HIV and prevent the virus from infecting immune cells. The antibodies also help natural killer cells attack infected cells that express HIV. Both IL-2 and HIV-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies have been administered safely to HIV patients, but not in combination, the release said.
For the 64-week study, researchers will assign one group of participants to receive IL-2 and a second group to receive IL-2 plus a monoclonal antibody. Lederman and colleagues are currently in discussions with the NIH’s Vaccine Research Center to determine which monoclonal antibody will be used in the trial. They hope that the size of HIV reservoir will decrease in both groups, and that the antibody will improve the efficacy of IL-2. The trial is expected to include 16 participants and will launch later this year.
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