Fighting HIV with cancer drugs

(NBC) - University of Minnesota researchers are being commended for a big medical discovery. After 20 years of researching HIV, they found that drugs used to treat one deadly disease might actually help to fight off another.

Professor Louis Mansky is hoping his latest research will lead to a new treatment. His team recently found a way to treat the virus, using drugs already on the market.

Those drugs - Decitabine and Gemcitabine - are currently used to treat cancer. But when combined in lab experiments researchers wanted them to do something else for HIV.

"To force the virus to mutate at a much higher rate and kill itself off," said researcher Louis Mansky.

They say that's exactly what happened.

"Together, in combination, at concentrations or at doses much lower than what you use for cancer chemotherapy, these things work in our models very, very well," researcher Steve Patterson said.

The beauty of this is that the drugs are already approved by the FDA, saving them lots of time and money.

"The hope is that these drugs can be more quickly developed into new anti-HIV drugs," said Mansky.

Of course, plenty more research needs to be done, including clinical trials in humans. And they also hope to put the drugs in pill form. Right now, they're only given through an IV.

But for now, they are quite optimistic about the discovery.

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.