A team of Australian scientists completely cured mice of chronic hepatitis B (HBV) using a pre – market cancer treatment drug. Human trials are now underway, and the outlook is quite promising as results showed 100% eradication of the virus.
Claire Bernish(The Pontiac Tribune) – A team of Australian scientists completely cured mice of chronic hepatitis B (HBV) using a pre – market cancer treatment drug. Human trials are now underway, and the outlook is quite promising as results showed 100% eradication of the virus.
The findings are significant as an estimated 2 billion people worldwide live with HBV, and is chronic in about 360 million cases. Previous treatments were only able to suppress the virus, but not eliminate the infection, so HBV had been labeled ‘incurable’.
Hepatitis B is most prevalent in regions of sub – Saharan Africa and Asia, and can lead to serious complications including cirrhosis and liver cancer; which, according to the World Health Organization, causes around 1 million deaths annually. The experimental treatment uses a combination of the antiviral drug entecavir with birinapant, which was developed by the US biotech company TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals for treating cancer. Results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) this week.
Dr Marc Pellegrini, who headed the team of researchers at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said of the results“We were 100% successful in curing HBV infection in hundreds of tests in preclinical models. Birinapant enabled the destruction of hepatitis B-infected liver cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. Excitingly, when birinapant was administered in combination with current antiviral drug entecavir, the infection was cleared twice as fast compared with birinapant alone”.
The key to this treatment and to preventing drug – resistant strains from developing, lies in assisting the cells to rid themselves of the virus, rather than specifically targeting the virus. According to Dr. Pellegrini “It is relatively easy for an organism to adapt to a drug, but it is very difficult to adapt to a change in the host cell. The virus relies on the survival mechanisms of the host, so if it can’t exploit them, it dies. Such a monumental change in the virus’ environment may be too big a hurdle for it to adapt to”.
Potential also exists for the treatment of HIV, dengue fever, and bacterial infections like tuberculosis, so the team of scientists is now testing that theory.
TetraLogic tested birinapant on over 300 people and have completed Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials, with results, “suggest that birinapant has potential for treating a wide spectrum of solid tumors, hematological malignancies, and viral infections”. Studies will now be conducted on a larger group to monitor side effects and verify its safety before it can be available for sale.
(Feat. Image: Sandia Labs)