A drug used to treat breast cancer may soon help patients with HIV/AIDS. The drug Tamoxifen is primarily given to cancer patients, both male and female, to prevent the return of breast cancer by suppressing estrogen. This same drug may soon be used as a defense against a lethal fungal infection that is known in the HIV/AIDS community to kill more patients than tuberculosis.
Tamoxifen is either given as a follow-up treatment, for breast cancer survivors, about two to five years following their initial treatment is concluded, during radiation and chemotherapy treatment or to patients who are at a higher risk for the development of breast cancer as a preventive medication. Estrogen fuels some breast cancers and Tamoxifen is used to prevent cancer from growing by blocking the estrogen receptor in breast tissue. Although it blocks estrogen in breast tissue it also functions as estrogen in other tissues and can protect bones from osteoporosis and lower bad cholesterol.
In the future Tamoxifen may join the arsenal of weapons within the HIV/AIDS community of treatment. It was discovered during a screening process drugs by using a popular strategy of testing out drugs which are approved for one condition for their success against another. Researchers led by Damian Krysan, from the University of Rochester in New York, sorted through approximately 2,000 compounds in search of agents that could kill Cryptococcosis directly.
Cryptococcosis is a fungal infection which has proven to be deadly to individuals living with the AIDS virus. Every year nearly one million people become infected with this particular fungal infection. Krysan who is a pediatric infectious diseases specialist said that Cryptococcosis can lead to meningitis. Meningitis is a life-threatening viral or bacterial infection, which inflames the covering of the brain and spinal cord.
Currently there are two expensive drugs which are being used to treat the fungal infection but are not readily available in developing countries. This drug combination is delivered by infusion through an injection directly into the blood stream. According to experts, 10 to 20 percent of patients who receive this treatment still die. In resource poor countries another drug is used which only slows the growth of the organism and results in a higher death rate.
Researchers tested the potential answer for Cryptococcosis and found favorable results. Tamoxifen is not a new drug; it has been successfully used for decades as a treatment for breast cancer. It is a generic drug, says Krysan which renders it inexpensive but with a number of important advantages such as it can be given to patients orally and gain access to the brain. Cryptococcosis ultimately infects the brain and the drug Tamoxifen very effectively crosses into the central nervous system and accumulates to levels above what is normally seen in the blood.
Krysan says the most effective treatment against fungal infection is the combination of the drug which used in resource poor countries to treat Cryptococcus and Tamoxifen. Both of the drugs are already approved so human trials of the combination therapy should take place in the near future.
Many people think HIV/AIDS is on the decline but that is not so, especially with the number of senior citizens who are testing positive for the disease. More seniors are joining the dating scene which unfortunately has caused an increase in the number of cases which have sparked. This strengthens the need for sexual health education across all ages.
For those that have already contracted the disease can always turn to Positive Singles, an online community, to find dates as well as information on living with HIV/AIDS. This online site is loaded with information to assist singles who have been identified HIV positive with dating and other social concerns. There is no known cure to date but there is a community of people who are successfully living with the disease.
Gerard Yetman, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador said the number of seniors who are testing positive for the AIDS virus is steadily increasing. Yetman does not attribute the increase to seniors unwilling to learn about the disease as much as he does to the physicians who are uncomfortable addressing it with senior citizens.
Yetman said they had a senior who reported going to his family doctor to receive a HIV test and was told he was not in a risk category. This alone, says Yetman, increases the risk of the virus being spread. If people are not getting tested they may have contracted the disease and unknowingly transferred it to a partner.
With people living longer these days there are a lot of people who are looking for companionship. As a result Yetman and his committee believe sexually active heterosexuals are the new at-risk category for HIV/AIDS infections. Hence tests along with education should be more easily attainable.
The good news for positive singles that have already contracted the virus is the drug Tamoxifen which is currently used to treat breast cancer may soon help patients with HIV/AIDS. The new use for this drug may be a defense against a lethal fungal infection that is known in the HIV/AIDS community to kill more patients than tuberculosis.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)