ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A 53-year-old and a 47-year-old man appear to have been cleared of HIV after receiving bone marrow transplants at a hospital in Australia.

The men were being treated for leukemia and lymphoma. The leukemia patient is the first recorded case of clearing the virus that causes AIDS without the presence of a rare anti-HIV gene in the donor marrow.

“We’re so pleased that both patients are doing reasonably well years after the treatment for their cancers and remain free of both the original cancer and the HIV virus,” said study senior author and UNSW Kirby Institute director Scientia Professor David Cooper.

The team of researchers plans to replicate the immune response to bone marrow transplantation in a laboratory setting in the hope of devising a less invasive and less dangerous immunotherapy against the virus.

They will also be studying the two patients to help figure out where in the body the virus is hiding.

“Working out where the remains of the virus is hiding has become the big scientific question in the HIV/AIDS research community. It will be essential to understand in order to achieve a cure,” Professor Cooper said.

“We still don’t know why these patients have undetectable viral loads,” said the study’s first author, Doctor Kersten Koelsch of the Kirby Institute. “One theory is that the induction therapy helps to destroy the cells in which the virus is hiding and that any remaining infected cells are destroyed by the patient’s new immune system.”

“We need more research to establish why and how bone marrow transplantation clears the virus. We also want to explore the predictors of sustained viral clearance and how this might be able to be exploited without the need for bone marrow transplantation,” Koelsch added.

In 2012, two patients in Boston had similar treatments with bone marrow cells that did not contain the mutation. They initially tested clear of the virus, but when they stopped taking antiretroviral medication the virus returned.

The team will be presenting their research Friday at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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