"This study in mice supports the idea that radioimmunotherapy might help in treating people infected with HIV," says Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at Einstein and a senior author of the study, which appears in the November issue of PLoS Medicine. "More broadly, this work introduces a new approach for treating the many viral infections, from hepatitis C to Ebola, in which viral proteins are expressed on the surface of infected cells."
The Einstein researchers used a technique called radioimmunotherapy, in which radioisotopes are piggy-backed onto antibodies. Once these precision-made molecules are injected into the body, the antibodies home in on a specific protein target…and the radioisotope "warhead" destroys the cell to which that protein is attached.
Radioimmunotherapy is an accepted treatment for several types of cancer including non-Hodgkins lymphoma. But only at Einstein has it been tried against infectious diseasesan idea pioneered by Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, the study's lead author and an associate professor in the departments of nuclear medicine and microbiology & immunology.
In a series of animal studies beginning in 2001, Dr. Dadachova and her colleagues have successfully used radioimmunotherapy against a variety of disease-causing microbesfirst the major fungal pathogen Cryptocccus neoformans, which can cause life-threatening encephalitis in AIDS patients and other people with weakened immune systems; then a streptococcal bacterium responsible for pneumonia; and now HIV. The researchers zapped the fungi and bacteria directly, but, in the case of HIV, they aimed for the immune cells that the virus infects.<