HIV medications could treat brain tumors

HIV medications could treat brain tumors

Research from the University of Plymouth, UK, found that some drugs created to control HIV could counteract certain common forms of brain tumors.

So far, there are very few treatments for these tumors, which often return even after a person has surgery and radiation therapy, reported the website.

Potential uses

The drugs tested were ritonavir, atazanavir, and lopinavir, which have long been used to treat HIV infection. All three belong to the same class of drugs, called protease inhibitors.

If these early results are confirmed, these antiretroviral drugs could be used to treat meningioma and acoustic neuroma, also known as schwannoma.

Meningioma is the most common form of primary brain tumor, and although it is low-grade (grows slowly), it can become cancerous. It develops in the meninges, the layer of tissue that protects the brain and spinal cord.

Schwannoma, on the other hand, is a different type of low-grade brain tumor, and it develops in so-called Schwann cells, which form a layer that surrounds part of the structures of the nerves.

The key is in genetics

The team led by Dr. Sylwia Ammoun investigated the role that some DNA sections play in the development of tumors. She called these sections “endogenous HERV-K retroviruses,” and explained that they are vestiges of infections which attacked our primate ancestors, and that over time they became stable elements of human DNA.

Dr Ammoun explained that the proteins produced by HERV-K DNA had already been identified as being linked to tumor development. “In this study, we showed that there were high levels of HERV-K proteins present in meningioma and schwannoma cells.” At the same time, they identified several drugs that attack these proteins, reducing the growth of meningioma and schwannoma cells in the laboratory. Those drugs are the aforementioned ritonavir, atazanavir, and lopinavir.

This finding opens the door to a line of research with already available treatments, which speeds up research time for potential treatments.

Antiretroviral treatment remains essential for people with HIV. If you live with the virus and do not know how to start your treatment or want to resume it, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Come to our closest office in your country or write to us on WhatsApp.