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Blood cancers linked to HIV: Insights from recent studies ~ Dr. Antonio Giordano (Sbarro Institute)

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

This blog was originally published in La Voce Di New York by Prof Antonio Giordano, click here to read in Italian.


Recent research demonstrates that anti-retroviral (ARV) therapies to HIV patients prevent almost two-thirds of cancers, including Kaposi's sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.


These neoplastic diseases are frequently linked to patients with advanced AIDS or HIV-positive. This finding is very intriguing but larger studies are required to evaluate the use of these drugs.


As the HIV infection predominantly targets CD4 T lymphocytes, white blood cells, as well as macrophage monocytes, the insurgency of tumors is particularly dangerous for AIDS patients. When advanced AIDS and seropositivity affect the function of these cells, patients are more vulnerable than others to tumor-related disorders as in fact white cells "protect" us from tumors and infections.


Particularly aggressive tumors that can damage the skin, mouth cavity, digestive system, and lymph nodes include Kaposi's sarcoma. A type of multicentric vascular tumor (KS) can develop in immunosuppressed people who contract the hhv8 virus. The hhv8 virus is spread by saliva, intercourse, organ transplants, or blood transfusions involving hhv8-positive individuals.


Oncology is a specific area of medicine that examines the connections between the HIV virus and the onset of tumors in people with cancer or in people who are positive and have tumors. Because neoplastic pathology in these patients is interconnected with more aggressive infections associated with immunodeficiency, with issues related to anti-retroviral therapy response, with toxicity and pharmacological interactions, it is clear that the oncological pathology in patients with advanced AIDS or seropositivity is more "complex" than that in patients without advanced AIDS.


Recent studies have revealed some encouraging news. The diagnosis of tumors in AIDS patients has "significantly" decreased since the introduction of potent anti-retroviral combinatorial therapies in 1996–1997. Nonetheless, their "risk" is still higher than the general population. The use of antiretrovirals has improved the health of individuals with associated neoplastic disorders and turned HIV infection from a lethal to a chronic disease. Achieving a "chronicization" allowing patients to live as long as possible is what we hope to achieve for cancer treatment. To accomplish this as soon as possible, it is important to create oncological prevention and surveillance programs based on the use of immunotherapy and other cutting-edge, personalized medicine, which take into account the regression and interaction of tumors treated with anti-retroviral drugs.


Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D. is the Founder and Director of Sbarro Health Research Organization based at the College of Science and Technology, Temple University, Philadelphia. Connect with him on his social media channels to follow more updates: (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram)


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