Combining aggressive HIV therapy and chemotherapy significantly improves the survival rates of HIV-positive men and women treated for lymphoma, according to a new study. Published in the April 1, 2006 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study reveals that combination therapy showed the greatest benefit for HIV patients suffering from aggressive malignant non-Hodgkins lymphoma. This benefit was most pronounced in HIV patients without severely impaired immune functions. These so-called "standard risk" patients responded as well to therapy and survived as long as lymphoma patients without HIV.
Lymphomas are cancers of the immune systems white blood cells. They are treated with chemotherapy, often consisting of a multi-drug regimen using cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine and prednisone (CHOP). People with HIV, a virus that depletes integral, specialized white cells called CD-4 cells, are at increased risk of developing lymphomas, particularly aggressive, fast-growing non-Hodgkin type lymphomas. These are called "AIDS-related lymphomas" (ARL) and generally have a poorer prognosis than non-HIV-related lymphomas. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) revolutionized care of HIV-positive men and women. It not only improves laboratory indicators, such as increased CD-4 cells and reduced viral loads, but also significantly improves survival and delays the onset of AIDS and AIDS-related cancers, including lymphomas.
With the lack of study data to show the efficacy of maintaining HIV-positive patients on HAART while they are treated with chemotherapy for ARL, oncologists are hesitant to expose HIV patients to hypothetical drug toxicities related to combining the therapies. Researchers led by Rudolf Weiss, M.D., of Specialist Practice for Hematology, Oncology and Infectious Diseases in Bremen, Germany, treated 72 HIV-patients with ARL divided into high-risk and standard-risk cohorts with combined CHOP and HAART to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the combined regimen.
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