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Clinical Trial Will Test HIV Drugs Against Brain Tumors

A tumor.
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Drugs developed to combat HIV and AIDS are being trialled for the first time in patients with multiple brain tumours.

Scientists at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth are conducting a clinical trial to see whether using anti-retroviral medications, Ritonavir and Lopinavir, could help people with Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2). The rare inherited genetic condition causes tumours such as schwannoma (which include acoustic neuroma), ependymoma and meningioma which develop on the membrane surrounding the brain.

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The RETREAT clinical trial, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann and funded by the Children’s Tumour Foundation, will expand on research which showed the repurposed drugs reduced tumour growth and survival in the tumours.

Jayne Sweeney, 57, from Cornwall, was diagnosed with NF2 in 1996, 11 years after discovering she had an acoustic neuroma in her left ear when she was 18. She currently has 12 tumours growing in her brain and has undergone five operations. Having already lost the hearing in her left ear, she is now facing compete deafness.

Jayne said: “The RETREAT trial is incredibly exciting, any advancement to improve peoples’ lives is brilliant. A cure for NF2 is too late for me, but I am extremely proud to have been invited onto the trial steering group where I have seen first-hand just how passionate the team is about helping people with this disease. If we can find an effective drug for people newly diagnosed, that would be fantastic.”

During the year-long trial, patients will undergo a tumour biopsy and blood test before having 30 days of treatment with the two medications. They will then have another biopsy and blood test to determine if the drug combination has managed to enter tumour cells and has had its intended effect.

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