A blood-heating procedure being tested as a cancer treatment appears to have eliminated the deadly AIDS virus in one patient, doctors reported, but experts were skeptical about the procedure's long-term success.
Drs. Kenneth Alonso and William Logan of Atlanta Hospital performed the procedure on Carl Crawford Feb. 20 to treat the AIDS-related cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma.Crawford, 33, who was diagnosed with acquired immune deficiency syndrome in October 1989, tested negative for the virus starting a week after the procedure, and his blood remains AIDS-free three months later, Alonso said Thursday.
"We wanted to use the hyperthermia to treat the sarcoma," said Alonso, a cancer specialist. "His sarcoma shrunk, and as a byproduct, the HIV (AIDS virus) viral culture has been negative for three months."
Alonso said the doctors are a long way from claiming an AIDS cure, adding that they are restricting their conclusions to observations made in Crawford's case.
"These clinical findings and laboratory data would seem to indicate that prolonged heat exposure may have an inhibitory effect on HIV," Alonso said. "Further studies are in progress."
Mathilde Krim, a virologist and co-founder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, said she was encouraged by the results but believed the virus was suppressed, not eliminated.
Crawford said all of his symptoms have disappeared and he believes he has been cured.
"I figured maybe I had two weeks to a month to live, and now I have a lifetime," said Crawford, who is a waiter. "I just feel so great that I have a second chance at life."
In related news:
-AIDS EXPERTS are hopeful that a new experimental drug will slow the progress of the deadly disease and prove less toxic and cheaper than the anti-viral drugs AZT and DDI.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made Hoffman-La Roche's drug DDC available to AIDS patients in a "compassionate use program" designed to test the safety of the drug, the pharmaceutical firm and the FDA announced Thursday.
"The most exciting thing about DDC is that it is looking more and more to be the drug that DDI was supposed to be," said Dr. Jay Lalezari, co-director to the HIV Clinical Research Center at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco.
"We don't know the efficacy, but it looks like it is well tolerated," he said.
-RESEARCHERS HAVE TAKEN a step they think could help them better understand AIDS, using a cloned virus to infect monkeys with an AIDSlike disease.
This is the first time a laboratory-developed virus has been used to cause an AIDS-type infection, the researchers reported in the journal Science.
Because all copies of a cloned virus are identical, scientists can compare the results of an infection with the original virus with infections from a virus in which they have made specific changes.
Global cases up 3.5% in May
Global AIDS cases reported to the World Health Organization rose by 8,973, or 3.5 percent, in May to a total of 263,051, the U.N. agency said Friday. The United States accounted for most of the increase with 6,309 more cases for a total of 132,436 or 50.4 percent of the world figure as of May 31. That was somewhat misleading, however, because badly stricken African nations failed to send in updated reports to WHO. WHO experts as always warned that reported cases also represent less than half of the real global total, which is estimated at more than 600,000. Also, at least half of the cumulative total cases since 1980 have already resulted in death.