Timothy Ray Brown, the first man to be officially cured of HIV infection, has died from cancer.
54 year old, Brown died on Tuesday, his death was announced by his partner Tim Hoeffgen, in a social media post
Brown also known as the “Berlin patient” because he had been living in the German city with both HIV and leukemia when he received the treatment that apparently cured him.
While receiving chemotherapy for his cancer in 2007 and 2008, Brown became so sick he was put into a coma.
Doctors were not certain he would survive. So, Brown underwent stem cell transplants from a donor who was immune to HIV, in hopes of curing his cancer.
Doctors declared Brown “cured” in 2008, not long after his blood stem cell transplant.
Brown said he had stopped taking his HIV medication in 2011 after the day he received the transplant.
The cause of Brown’s death was a return of the cancer that originally prompted the unusual treatment that cured him of HIV.
Dr. Gero Huetter, the Berlin physician who led Brown’s historic treatment, called his death, “a very sad situation,” because he still seemed free of HIV.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Huetter said, “Timothy symbolized that it is possible, under special circumstances,” to rid a patient of the virus.
The president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), Adeeba Kamarulzaman, commenting on Brown’s death, said: “We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hütter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible.”
While the transplant treatment also “cured” another man known as the London patient, the exact method is not one that widely available and affordable to over 35 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS.
The Berlin and London patients benefited from a combination of medical and genetic chance, the experts explained. While the method of treatment was effective, both could have easily been killed by it.
In 2019, researchers eliminated HIV from mice using gene editing, marking the first time it was eradicated from the genomes of living animals, according to the study’s authors. Researchers used both CRISPR-Cas9, a gene editing system and a drug regimen called long-acting slow-effective release (LASER) ART. The mice were treated with LASER ART and then with CRISPR-Cas9, which eliminated HIV DNA from about one-third of the mice. Research, however, might not have the same results in humans, HealthDay reported.