Researchers in Philadelphia testing drug that may one day cure AIDS

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Researchers in Philadelphia are spearheading advanced trials on a drug that many hope will cure AIDS someday. (WPVI)

Researchers in Philadelphia are spearheading advanced trials on a drug that many hope will cure AIDS someday.

Research by the Wistar Institute is in its third phase, with randomized clinical trials underway.

The results on the first two phases were so good that a segment will be devoted to it during the World AIDS Conference this summer in Vancouver.

Matt Fair is testing AIDS' patients' blood to see if an altered form of Interferon A can reduce the amount of HIV.

For decades, doctors have used a group of drugs to control symptoms.

But the patient had to take them forever - nothing cured AIDS.

Now with a $6 million, 4-year grant from the National Institutes of Health, researchers under Dr. Luis Montaner, are hoping to take it to the next level - reducing the virus in the patient, then eradicating it altogether.

"Maybe be like the next Jonas Salk with a polio vaccine or something along those lines. As a kid those ideas are ambitious but to physically be a part of one of those projects is too good to be true," said Fair, research assistant.

The drug was tried originally in the 1980s on AIDS victims who were not getting a stabilizing cocktail and failed.

Now it's being tried for 20 weeks alongside current therapies.

The first two smaller trials were positive - this test is the largest randomized AIDS trial in the world.

"All of your immune system is going to be activated by seeing this drug - even though the virus is being kept at bay by the drug. At one point you could remove the actual drugs that were keeping the virus at bay and your body will do the rest," said Dr. Montaner, Wistar Institute.

Some members of FIGHT, the local AIDS awareness group, are being tested like Grace Rutha.

She says for the 30,000 AIDS sufferers in Philadelphia, it's beyond exciting.

"For the HIV community, this is gonna be a game changer. It's going to reconcile families and it's gonna help people live and manage regular lives," said Rutha.

Results from this phase won't be complete until 2017, but this multi-institutional test including the University of Pennsylvania and others, is generating more excitement than we've seen in a long time.
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