Scully Receives Grant to Study Gender Differences in HIV Treatment

Scully Receives Grant to Study Gender Differences in HIV Treatment

Apr 02

Dr. Eileen Scully, M.D., Ph.D. of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Ragon Institute has been awarded funding from amfAR’s Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE) program.


Founded in 1985, amfAR, one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations, is dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research. The ARCHE program was launched in 2010 to explore potential strategies for eliminating HIV infection. This year, amfAR awarded research grants, totaling more than $913,000. These grants will enable five teams of scientists working at leading research institutions in the United States and around the globe to collaborate on studies aimed at curing HIV.


Dr. Scully and her team will work in parallel with a team led by Jonathan Karn, Ph.D. of Case Western Reserve University to explore how gender-based differences can affect how HIV is cured. Dr. Karn will study the key differences of latent virus in men and women, including hormone effects on reactivation strategies and Dr. Scully will work to explore the immune profile, activation levels and distribution of latent viral reservoirs in men and women. Nicolas Chomont, Ph.D. of Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida will be using novel assays to assess the size of the latent reservoir. Steven Deeks, M.D. and Monica Gandhi, M.D. both of the University of California San Francisco will be Collaborating Investigators, recruiting a population of well matched women and men and assessing for a number of reproductive and hormone related factors.


There is considerable evidence to suggest different rates of HIV disease progression in men and women.  Work from Dr. Marcus Altfeld’s lab at the Ragon Institute has previously shown significant differences between men and women in immune activation in response to HIV infection. Dr. Scully and her team plan to address whether there are sex differences in the latent HIV reservoir– CD4 cells that are infected with HIV but not actively producing HIV– that might reasonably result from the sex differences in disease pathogenesis. Because very few women are included in clinical studies of curative interventions (estimated at only 8.3% of subjects in studies relevant to cure in the United States), these studies led by Dr. Scully will answer a fundamental question concerning whether cure strategies will be equally effective in men and women.


“The field of cure research is just starting to define strategies that may make eradication of HIV possible, a major breakthrough,” says Dr. Scully.  “At this point, given the evidence of important differences in fundamental aspects of immune function between men and women, and specific evidence of hormone mediated effects in HIV, we need to define how these are relevant to cure. Women bear a significant proportion of the burden of worldwide infection, and we are very excited to have this opportunity to better understand how we can move forward towards cure for all patients, both men and women.”


 amfAR press release