First HIV-cured man faces terminal cancer

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The first person to be considered cured of the HIV virus, the cause of AIDS, the American Timothy Ray Brown, 54, announced the return of cancer, which is in an advanced stage.

Known as a “Berlin patient” (where he lived at the time of HIV treatment), Timothy said, in an interview with the Associated Press, that when he received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with natural resistance to the virus, 12 years ago , it was hoped that the procedure would have cured both the HIV infection and the leukemia he faced at the time.

Although he has no more signs of infection with the virus so far, the cancer returned in 2019 and has spread throughout the body. Today, Timothy receives treatment at a hospice in the city of Palm Springs, California. Hospices are institutions that provide palliative treatment to patients whose diseases have no cure.

Timothy the "Berlin patient", faces advanced leukemia and is receiving palliative treatments at a hospice in the United States. Photo: Michael Louella / AFP.
Timothy, the “Berlin patient”, faces advanced leukemia and is receiving palliative treatments at a hospice in the United States. Photo: Michael Louella / AFP.

Cura do HIV

When he discovered he was infected with HIV, Timothy worked as a translator in Berlin in the 1990s. In 2006, when he discovered he had leukemia, physician Gero Huetter, a specialist in hematological (blood) cancer at the University of Berlin, believed that a bone marrow transplant would be the best alternative for the treatment of cancer, in addition to HIV.

For that, however, a donor with a genetic mutation that would be resistant to the virus would be needed, which is very rare. In addition, the procedure itself would be risky, since the patient’s immune system should be destroyed with chemotherapy and radiation so that the donor cells are transplanted and a new immune system is created.

To the AP agency, Timothy said he is happy to have undergone this procedure, even though the cancer has returned. “It opened doors that didn’t exist before,” said the patient, referring to scientists who thought that a cure for the virus was not possible and who, because of the success of the transplant, came to believe.

London Patient

Recently, in 2016, a second man, known as the “London patient”, is also believed to have been cured of the HIV virus with a procedure similar to what was done by Timothy.

Adam Castillejo, a Venezuelan living in London, who recently revealed his identity in early 2020, was diagnosed with the virus in 2003. The man used the drugs already available, but discovered cancer in 2011. The transplant was done in 2016.

Still in 2020, researchers at the Federal University of São Paulo found that a cocktail of drugs was able to eliminate the virus in a 34-year-old Brazilian patient. After medication, the patient was two years without the virus being detected in the body.

In addition to antiretroviral drugs, the Brazilian patient received other drugs and vitamins, as a form of B3, nicotinamide, for 13 months.

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