January 30, 2002

Modern Drug SHC-C May Combat AIDS

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A team of researchers, which included several Cornell Weill Medical College researchers, published the results of their study that announced a possible new drug for use in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The two papers appeared in the National Academy of Sciences in October 2001 and early this January.

The project leaders included Cornell researchers Dr. Shawn E. Kuhmann, post-doctoral fellow and Prof. John P. Moore, microbiology and immunology as well as Dr. Alexandra Trkola, of University Hospital at Zurich.

“This could be a useful addition to our current drugs to combat HIV,” Kuhmann said.

The new drug, known as SHC-C, was tested to see if it could block HIV from entering and infecting blood cells. SHC-C, however, did not block the reception of HIV because the virus mutated. For this reason, HIV cannot be combated by any single treatment.

The scientists believe, however, that SHC-C may still be effective if used in conjunction with other treatments or in a situation where HIV is less likely to mutate. So far SHC-C has passed safety trials, and compounds similar to it are currently being used in human trials at Schering-Plough, a New Jersey pharmaceutical company that holds the patent to SHC-C.

“People were worried that blocking [one receptor] would encourage entry through [another] more [dangerous receptor],” Kuhmann said. In a test-tube study, the researchers found that after inhibiting the first receptor, the HIV did not transfer to the more dangerous receptor, although the virus was able to mutate and continue to enter through the original one.

Current treatments for HIV consist of an array of drugs.

“HIV can escape from any single inhibitor, and that’s why combinations must be used,” Kuhmann said.

These drugs are often effective in combating the lethal AIDS virus, although they may also have harsh side-effects. Scientists are still looking for other stronger and safer drug combinations to combat the virus.

Financial support came from the National Institute of Health and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Archived article by Peter Norlander