Stem Cell Transplants Could Help HIV Patients Combat Lymphoma

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With HIV patients at an increased risk for lymphoma, stem cell transplants could be a viable treatment option, according to a new study published by the American Society of Hematology.

During the transplant cells would be harvested from the HIV-positive patients themselves. Researchers believe their new findings challenge the previous notion that people with HIV are not candidates for this treatment option.

"Overall survival for patients with HIV infection after transplant is comparable to that seen in people who were not HIV-infected," said Dr. Joseph Alvarnas, lead author of the study.

Increased risk

According to the study, HIV-positive people are at a heightened risk for lymphoma, and cancer is the leading cause of death for those suffering from HIV. For HIV-positive patients, the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is up to 25 times higher than HIV-negative patients.

Previously, doctors have been leery about treating HIV patients with stem cell transplants. Medical professionals have been concerned that patients’ immune systems wouldn’t recover following chemotherapy and that infections could occur.

According to the new study, however, transplant-related deaths for HIV-positive patients were only 5.2 percent, and survival rates hovered just above 87 percent after one year. Both numbers are comparable to patients who received stem cell transplants but did not have HIV.

"These findings are remarkably important for a group of patients who, up until now, have been inconsistently treated,” said Alvarnas. "Based on our data, autologous stem cell transplant should be considered the standard of care for patients with HIV-related lymphomas for the same indications and under the same circumstances that we would use it in patients without HIV infection."

Source: U.S. News & World Report

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