CHERUBs for HIV Cure: Centuries-Old Rivalries Set Aside for “Kick and Kill” Study

The Collaborative HIV Eradication of viral Reservoirs UK BRC project, or CHERUB, is a collaboration by five of England’s major research institutions. This week, they announced a study that will target dormant HIV in a concerted effort to cure the disease.

In 2010, representatives from Oxford University, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, King’s College London and University College London came together for a common goal. Though the spirit of competition is strong between such institutions (particularly between Oxford and Cambridge), there isn’t a much a stronger force than the collective desire to eradicate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

And that’s the goal: not simply to treat HIV, but to eradicate it entirely. The concept plays into the project’s name: “Collaborative HIV Eradication of viral Reservoirs UK BRC”, or “CHERUB” for short.

Brokered by the UK’s National Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), part of the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the collaboration pulls together some of the world’s finest researchers in the field.

“Here was an opportunity to put that competition aside, and collaborate on a global health challenge…” says Mark Samuels, Managing Director of NOCRI, “…each research center provides its expertise to complete the jigsaw needed to find a cure for HIV — from patients, to the right doctors, the right diagnostic technology, the mathematician to analyze results and so on.”

While antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been extremely successful in making HIV manageable by preventing its replication in the body and vastly curtailing its prevalence in the bloodstream, it is still able to remain alive and inactive in the body. The study aims to recruit 50 HIV-positive participants and employ histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor drugs to “reawaken” the virus, in hopes that the body’s own recovered immune system will be able to fight it off. HDAC inhibitors have previously been used for neurological conditions and cancer treatments.

The study will recruit 50 participants and is expected to be completed by 2018. The first patient has completed the intervention, which the researchers called “safe and well tolerated.”

Related Coverage:

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