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The Oncolytic Virus MG1 Targets and Eliminates Cells Latently Infected With HIV-1: Implications for an HIV Cure.

Information sheet for Ranganath et al., a study published in Journal of Infectious Diseases, February 2018

Current HIV antiretroviral therapies are not able to target latently infected HIV cells in viral reservoirs throughout the body. The ongoing presence of these cells is a significant barrier to the development of an HIV cure. Oncolytic virus therapy is a promising new therapeutic approach for cancer treatment and may represent a novel approach to the eradication of the HIV reservoir. An oncolytic virus is defined as a genetically engineered or naturally-occurring virus that can selectively replicate in and kill cancer cells without harming the normal tissues. (“onco” “lytic” means cancer killing.) The oncolytic virus MG1 has been shown to target and kill cancer cells containing a specific defect. Latently infected HIV cells contain a similar defect which could be exploited for the development of new anti-HIV therapies.

1) What was the goal of our study?

Our research examines whether latently-infected HIV cells containing defects in their interferon pathway, similar to those defects seen in some cancer cells, will be targeted and killed by the oncolytic virus MG1.

2) How is this study related to a cure for HIV? 

Therapy using oncolytic viruses may represent a new approach to eradication of the HIV reservoir. The fact that this virus is currently being administered to patients with cancer in the setting of clinical trials, should facilitate clinical studies in HIV infection.

3) Why are participant samples important to this research?

To obtain results which are relevant to “the real world”, our study needed to analyze the memory CD4+ T-cells from successfully treated people with HIV, not cells grown in a laboratory. To conduct our studies, we needed large numbers of blood cells, because it is difficult to find infected CD4+ T cells in people with an undetectable viral load. We could not have discovered these results without the participation of volunteers.

4) What was learned? What next?

This study provides an explanation as to why HIV is able to multiply and cause damage in the gut. Further research is needed to better understand the role of mTOR in HIV’s selection of CD4 T cells displaying the CCR6 molecule. Next, clinical trials using mTOR inhibitors will determine whether this strategy can be used for to cure HIV or to prevent HIV-related comorbidities.

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