New Options for the Future
Up ahead on the HIV horizon lurks a possible new weapon against HIV. This weapon is in the form of a "Fusion Inhibitor." Fusion Inhibitors are a new class of anti-HIV medications. T-20, (also known as Pentafuside) developed by Trimeris Inc. in collaboration with Hoffman-La Roche Inc. is the first of this class to make it to clinical trials.
What's really exciting about T-20, is that it works very differently than any of the approved treatments currently available. Unlike our current treatment options, which attempt to inhibit the viral enzymes that HIV needs to replicate itself (once it has already entered a T-cell), Fusion Inhibitors work to block the virus from ever making that first connection. By actually binding with the virus, T-20 attempts to stop the interaction between the envelope of proteins on HIV that make it possible for HIV to fuse itself with a host cell. Because T-20 works so differently than any retroviral now in use, it is unlikely to have any cross resistance with existing treatments. Yea! This is especially good news for those of us who have a lot of treatment experience.
Week sixteen results from T20-205, a Phase II clinical trial evaluating the safety (ie; did it make people sick) and antiviral activity (meaning how well it suppressed the virus) of T-20 were announced this past September.
The study, which involved a twice daily injection of T-20 under the skin in combination with existing HIV meds, showed more than half (60 percent) of the heavily pretreated participants saw a more than one-log drop in their viral load (viral load decreased significantly), and almost one third had a viral load below the level of detection (for the particular type of test that they were using).
T-20 seemed to be well tolerated, and although no one dropped out of the study due to adverse reactions to the medication, it was not without a small share of side effects. Though mild to moderate in severity, the most commonly reported side effects were skin irritation at the site of injection, headache, nausea, and fever. (A connection to T-20 and some of these results has yet to be made.)
Other than having to inject T-20, the only other real downside of this medication, is that it is only effective against HIV-1. HIV-1 is the particular strain of virus that is the most predominant on this side of the globe.
The T-20 Phase II adult clinical trials are still ongoing, and in November the company announced the first pediatric study of T-20 in infected children.
Currently under study are various other forms of fusion inhibitors. T-1249, another product of Trimeris has received fast track approval from the FDA and is currently undergoing phase I clinical testing.
For more information regarding T-20 and other treatments for HIV, please contact the Treatment Advocates at Women Alive at 1-800-554-4876.
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.