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By Annie Hauser

An experimental cancer drug dubbed JQ1 shows promise in killing latent HIV and other inflammatory conditions, researchers at the Boston University Medical Campus report in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

Finding ways to fully eradicate HIV when the virus is latent, or when it is lying dormant within cells, is one of the greatest challenges facing HIV researchers today. JQ1 might be able to purge latent HIV infection by activating the virus in the presence of the drug, which is "essentially a dead end for the virus," researchers explained in a release.


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JQ1 was initially designed to block the cancer-causing gene BRD4, and has been shown to be effective in preventing early-stage growth of lung and blood cancers, including leukemia and multiple myeloma.

"This drug may be useful as adjunctive therapy in efforts to purge latent HIV reservoirs to eradicate infection," said principal investigator Monty A. Montano, PhD, from the Section of Infectious Diseases at Boston University Medical Campus in a release. "This drug functions synergistically with other HIV purging agents."

The drug has not yet been tried in people and the research is in the early laboratory research stage. For the in vitro study of JQ1, the researchers used cell lines that contained latent HIV and cells from patients on antiretroviral therapy with no detectable HIV in their blood. Researchers then added JQ1 to the latent-HIV infected cells, which reactivated the virus and made it vulnerable to other current therapies that can kill HIV, as well as the body's own immune system.

"One thing that's been made clear by the decades of HIV research is that there is no magic bullet for curing this disease," said John Wherry, PhD, deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. "Rather, the progress that's been made has been a series of incremental steps that often build on other previously developed therapies. The hope is that the ability of JQ1 to make latent HIV 'visible' to other HIV drugs described in this report will be another cog in the gearwheel of an HIV cure."

In August, JQ1 made headlines for its ability to stunt sperm production in male mice, pushing scientists one step closer to a birth control pill for men, Baylor College of Medicine researchers wrote in the journal Cell. Like the female birth-control pill, JQ1's effects on sperm were found to be completely reversible.

The new discovery regarding JQ1 and HIV comes just before World AIDS Day 2012, the annual public awareness event to support research to fight HIV/AIDS.

"Experimental Cancer Drug Could Kill HIV" originally appeared on Everyday Health.

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