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Canada-wide study on slow progressors to investigate new treatments for HIV

This press release is available in French.

Montreal, Febrauary 6, 2009 -- Why do some HIV patients manage to control the progression of their infection naturally over long periods of time? As part of a nation-wide investigation, a team of researchers will examine that question and others as they work to develop new strategies to fight AIDS.

The five-year study will be headed by Dr. Ccile Tremblay, a physician and investigator with the Centre hospitalier de l'Universit de Montral's Research Centre (CRCHUM) and a professor at the Universit de Montral, thanks to nearly $1 million in support from the Canadian Institutes for Health research (CIHR).

In light of a limited success in developing vaccine therapies, it has become clear that the scientific community needs to place greater emphasis on the basic research necessary to address the many unanswered questions that remain about HIV. One of the best approaches to try to develop effective vaccines is the study of HIV-infected individuals who control their infection naturally and do not show disease progression over a long period of time. Called slow progressors (SP), these individuals make up less than 1percent of HIV-infected population. Some of the questions that this study will address include:

  • What constitutes a protective immune response?
  • What are the drivers of HIV diversity?
  • Can we develop broadly neutralizing antibodies?
  • And, ultimately, how can this understanding lead to the development of an effective vaccine?

Conducting a study of this nature requires a sufficiently large pool of slow progessors. Enter Dr. Tremblay, whose team has assembled a unique cohort of slow progessors in Quebec and, thanks to the CIHR funding, she will expand it throughout Canada. This national effort will involve the collaboration of major HIV clinical scientists across the country, including in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, as well as international colleagues.

The cohort will enable researchers to gather important information concerning the clinical course of HIV, which may lead to the identification of factors that predict a favourable outcome. The study will enable the collection of samples that will be stored in a specimen bank, which will be made available to various investigators investigating the progression of HIV.

The project aims to determine the natural history of the disease over a five-year period. It will also focus on the impact of viral genetic evolution on the immune system through the collection of clinical, demographic, social and behavioural data that will be analyzed in correlation with virological, immunological and genetic findings.


Contact: Nathalie Forgue
University of Montreal

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