Even though cancer is a major cause of death for patients with HIV, their compromised immune systems have been a barrier to immunotherapy for cancer treatments. A recent study shows that immunotherapy may be safer for HIV patients than was previously thought.
Is Immunotherapy for Cancer Compatible with HIV-Positive Patients?
Although HIV patients have routinely been excluded from immunotherapy research, results of a clinical trial involving them were presented at last fall’s meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy for Cancer. The study included 17 HIV-positive patients with advanced cancers of various forms.
Patients in the trial were treated with Keytruda, a checkpoint inhibitor approved for use with melanoma, lung cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a number of other cancers. Results showed that Keytruda had a positive effect on the patients.
Continuing Research into HIV-Positive Patients and Immunotherapy
The one exception was Kaposi sarcoma (KSHV), a viral form of cancer associated with HIV and immune system disorders. Kaposi sarcoma patients in the trial did not experience the same benefits as others, so the study has been amended to exclude those with symptomatic KSHV.
According to team member Dr. Thomas Uldrick, further research is needed with immunotherapy and KSHV patients, but it doesn’t negate the overall message that immunotherapy can be safe for HIV patients. The National Cancer Institute also recommends the inclusion of HIV patients in clinical immunotherapy trials.
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