Cancer patients who also have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can now benefit from services offered at Miami Cancer Institute’s new HIV/Cancer Clinic, according to medical oncologist Marco Ruiz, M.D., the Institute’s chief of HIV Oncology and HIV Stem Cell Transplantation.
Dr. Ruiz says that Miami Cancer Institute, which is part of Baptist Health South Florida, has also become a member of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC), an international organization that researches new treatments for patients with both diseases. Together, he says, the two programs will provide these particularly complex patients with better access to new clinical trials as well as coordinated, multidisciplinary care in one location.
“The attention to detail for patients with HIV and cancer is critical,” says Dr. Ruiz, who specializes in the treatment of hematologic cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, myelodysplastic syndrome and myelofibrosis, as well as cancer combined with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). “While some healthcare organizations offer good care for one or the other, there are few places that offer the highest quality care for someone with both diseases.”
Dr. Ruiz adds that membership in the AMC means Miami Cancer Institute is recognized for its expertise and innovative care, as well as for having the infrastructure, including state-of-the art laboratory capabilities, and a robust clinical trials program.
According to the Florida Department of Health, there are more than 115,000 individuals with HIV living in the state ― the majority of those in South Florida. People infected with HIV have a significantly higher risk of developing cancer, particularly malignancies such as Kaposi sarcoma, aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cervical cancer and others, reports the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Some of the advantages of the NCI-supported Consortium include assistance with funding for trials and the sharing of information between members. Nearly 40 institutions are members worldwide, including top cancer organizations such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Oncology Center and others.
Miami Cancer Institute is offering five clinical trials through the AMC and hopes to add others soon, Dr. Ruiz says. “Another factor that makes Miami Cancer Institute unique is that we offer stem cell transplantation for those infected with HIV and certain cancers. This is showing great promise as a cure for both diseases.”
Miami Cancer Institute has already performed an allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplant on a patient who has both HIV and an aggressive form of lymphoma, according to Dr. Ruiz.
“The procedure involved finding a matching donor who also had a specific mutation in a gene that offers resistance to HIV infection,” he says. “Typically, it can take up to two years before a patient such as this can be declared cured. Today, six months after transplantation, the patient is doing well.”
Miami Cancer Institute operates a number of cancer clinics under one roof so that patients can see multiple specialists and caregivers in one visit. Because Florida has the third highest number of HIV-infected residents among U.S. states, the development of the HIV-Cancer Clinic and the addition of Miami Cancer Institute to the AMC is particularly significant, according to another of the Institute’s physician-leaders.
“There are many people who will benefit from this expertise,” says Guenther Koehne, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director and chief of Blood & Marrow Transplant and Hematologic Oncology at the Institute. “These are exciting steps forward in improving care for HIV-infected cancer patients.”