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Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) greatly improves survival and quality of life of HIV-1–infected patients; however, cART must be continued indefinitely to prevent viral rebound and associated disease progression. Inducing HIV-1–specific immune responses with a therapeutic immunization has been proposed to control viral replication after discontinuation of cART as an alternative to “cART for life.” We report safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity results associated with a control of viral replication for a therapeutic vaccine using autologous monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MD-DCs) pulsed with autologous heat-inactivated whole HIV. Patients on cART with CD4+ >450 cells/mm3 were randomized to receive three immunizations with MD-DCs or with nonpulsed MD-DCs. Vaccination was feasible, safe, and well tolerated and shifted the virus/host balance. At weeks 12 and 24 after cART interruption, a decrease of plasma viral load setpoint ≥1 log was observed in 12 of 22 (55%) versus 1 of 11 (9%) and in 7 of 20 (35%) versus 0 of 10 (0%) patients in the DC–HIV-1 and DC-control groups, respectively. This significant decrease in plasma viral load observed in immunized recipients was associated with a consistent increase in HIV-1–specific T cell responses. These data suggest that HIV-1–specific immune responses elicited by therapeutic DC vaccines could significantly change plasma viral load setpoint after cART interruption in chronic HIV-1–infected patients treated in early stages. This proof of concept supports further investigation of new candidates and/or new optimized strategies of vaccination with the final objective of obtaining a functional cure as an alternative to cART for life.
- Copyright © 2013, American Association for the Advancement of Science