Miracle! U.S. Man Cured of Both Leukemia and HIV After Bone Marrow Transplant

Last week, 68-year-old Paul Edmond from California, USA, announced that, five years after undergoing a bone marrow transplant, his acute myeloid leukemia has been effectively cured, and he has become the fifth person in the world to be cured of HIV. Edmond expressed his “immense gratitude” to all the medical staff who supported him through the surgery. To celebrate this medical miracle, the New England Journal of Medicine published his recovery case on February 15th.

Paul Edmond was diagnosed with HIV for the first time in 1988, a time when fear of the disease was at its peak and the medical community was largely powerless, leaving him in despair, feeling as though he had been sentenced to death. With the advent of a new generation of antiviral drugs, he began antiretroviral therapy in 1997 to suppress the HIV virus. However, the virus never completely disappeared, its DNA remained hidden within his immune cells. In 2018, Edmond faced another blow when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, also known as blood cancer. “I was not ready to die,” Edmond said. He underwent chemotherapy and started preparing for a bone marrow transplant. Bone marrow transplantation, also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, is a method to cure leukemia. It involves replacing the patient’s marrow with that of a donor, allowing the patient to produce healthy blood cells and rebuild a normal immune system, though it comes with a high risk of weakening the immune system. On February 6, 2019, he underwent a bone marrow transplant at the “City of Hope” clinic in California.

Fortunately, the donor matched with Edmond had a rare CCR5-delta 32 mutation gene, a genetic mutation that naturally resists HIV, found in only about 1-2% of people. After the surgery, Paul’s bone marrow and blood stem cells were completely replaced by the healthy cells of the donor, and he showed no signs of leukemia or HIV thereafter. In March 2021, Edmond decided to stop taking medication for HIV suppression. After nearly three years of close monitoring, doctors confirmed that there were no traces of the HIV virus in Edmond’s body. Edmond expressed deep gratitude to the medical team at the City of Hope. The doctors said this case proves that elderly patients undergoing low-intensity hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for cancer could also be cured of HIV. Dr. Jana Dickter from the City of Hope expressed hope that more people could benefit from this dual-purpose treatment in the future. However, they also emphasized that stem cell transplant surgery is high-risk and currently only applicable in special cases of life-threatening blood cancer and HIV. Moreover, due to the rarity of donors with the specific genetic mutation, this treatment method cannot be widely applied to the global population of 38 million people living with HIV.

Globally, only five HIV patients have been declared cured so far, including “Berlin Patient,” “London Patient,” “Düsseldorf Patient,” “New York Patient,” and “City of Hope Patient,” with Paul Edmond being the fifth and the one who has lived with the virus for the longest period. Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin Patient,” was the first person to achieve long-term remission of the HIV virus after undergoing bone marrow and stem cell transplants in 2007 and 2008, effectively curing him of the virus that causes AIDS and leukemia. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 54 due to cancer. In 2020, four years after treatment, the “London Patient” was declared the second person cured of HIV. In 2019, a German man was also treated for HIV through a stem cell transplant, but it was not until last year that clinicians confirmed his “cure.” A woman from New York also achieved remission from HIV and leukemia in 2022, becoming the first female to successfully undergo the treatment. Additionally, a European man known as the “Geneva Patient” reported virus remission about three years after undergoing a similar procedure in 2023, potentially making him the sixth person to be declared cured.