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Anticancer protein might combat HIV

Tumor suppressor p21 found in abundance in people impervious to developing AIDS

VANCOUVER — A protein best known as a cancer suppressor may enable some people infected with HIV to fend off the virus indefinitely, a new study shows. Copious production of this protein, called p21, shows up in a select group of HIV-positive people who rarely develop AIDS, scientists reported October 21 at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Some HIV patients, dubbed long-term nonprogressors, get infected with HIV yet seem impervious to its effects. While research has suggested factors that could separate these lucky few from most HIV patients, the specifics underlying their resistance are still an area of keen interest. “This is a specific group of patients who are spontaneously able to control HIV and don’t get sick from it,” says infectious disease physician Mathias Lichterfeld of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who presented the new data.

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