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Merck cancer drug digs into HIV's last hiding places

Researchers seeking FDA nod for new study
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A Merck ($MRK) cancer drug has given hope to researchers who have long dreamed of a way to wipe out HIV completely. A new study involving the drug, Zolinza, showed that it could scare dormant HIV from immune cells where current therapies can't get to it, Bloomberg reported.

The study involved just 6 HIV-positive men, and none of them were cured, but the results mark a victory in the pursuit of an eventual cure for the infectious disease. David Margolis, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher who led the study, told Bloomberg that he is seeking the FDA's nod for another study of Zolinza in HIV patients that would involve more doses of the drug.

Merck and Gilead Sciences ($GILD) are among the makers of antiviral drugs that have done wonders to keep HIV at bay, but those meds need to be taken on a continuous basis or the patient risks a resurgence of the virus. Margolis and other researchers are working on remedies that seek to pull HIV out from under its proverbial rocks in the body and expose the virus to immune attacks with the ultimate goal of eradicating the virus for good.

"What people want to know is when can someone go to a doctor and be handed a pill and be cured," Margolis told Bloomberg. "That's decades away. Think of it more in terms of curing cancer. I think in 10 years someone with HIV infection could go to a specialist and get a complicated treatment and have some likelihood of a prolonged remission of their HIV."

- get more in the Bloomberg article

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