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man ‘cured’ of cancer and HIV after stem cell treatment in stunning medical recovery

man ‘cured’ of cancer and HIV after stem cell treatment in stunning medical recovery
Paul Edmonds

An American, Paul Edmonds, has been cured of both cancer and HIV since one particular treatment five years ago known as a stem cell transplant in California.

In 2021, he also became one of five people in the world who had been cured of HIV. 

Sharing his story with the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope, Edmonds said that he had been living with HIV-1 for 31 years before the transplant. “People were dying within a few years of finding out they were positive,” said Edmonds recalling reading the obituaries of many friends back in the early 1980s. 

“A dark cloud was over the city,” he said, describing the city of San Francisco. At the time, people didn’t know what his friends were dying from but many called it AIDS. However, it was not until 1984 that HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS. 

Edmonds was diagnosed in 1988 with not just HIV, but full-blown AIDS. He told the City of Hope, that he felt he had been given a death sentence. In 1997, he began HIV antiretroviral therapy which effectively suppressed the virus to undetectable levels, but it is not a cure. 

In 2018, Edmonds was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, which eventually developed into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Since people with HIV have weaker immune systems, they are likely to develop leukaemia and other blood cancers. 

Paul Edmonds treatment

man ‘cured’ of cancer and HIV after stem cell treatment in stunning medical recovery
Paul Edmonds

Edmonds has been free of both cancer and HIV since one particular treatment and is now considered in remission from AML and in another two years, he will be considered “cured” of HIV, since it would mark five years from his last treatment. 

He is not only the fifth person in the world in remission of HIV, but also the eldest and had HIV the longest. Edmonds, 67, and his husband, Arnie House, were both HIV-positive when they were first diagnosed over three decades ago. 

“I wasn’t ready to die,” he told ABC News, speaking about his miraculous treatment at City of Hope. The medical team behind his case published his stunning recovery in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The treatment behind the remission is known as a stem cell transplant and is typically used in the final part of treatment for blood cancers, including leukaemia. 

As a part of the treatment, blood-forming stem cells in a patient’s bone marrow are destroyed using radiation or chemotherapy and the patient is then injected with healthy blood-forming stem cells. 

The stem cells are taken from a donor who has similar – but not the same – genes and are transplanted into the patient. These cells then produce cancer-free blood. However, in Edmonds’ case, the donated stem cells had a genetic mutation associated with resistance to HIV-1, said the doctors. 

“It’s a very rare mutation. It exists in roughly 1% of the population,” said Dr Jana Dickter, Edmond’s physician at City of Hope, as quoted by the New York Post. “It’s not something we find very commonly.”

The transplant replaced Edmonds’ bone marrow and blood stem cells with the donors’ and since then he has shown no signs of either AML or HIV. 

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