Timothy Ray Brown is the first person ever cured of HIV.
He was diagnosed with the disease in 1995. Then, after using antiretroviral drugs to stave off HIV for more than a decade, he received another staggering diagnosis: acute myeloid leukemia.
Brown’s doctors decided to use radiation and chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system, then rebuild it with donated stem cells. But they added a game-changing twist to this standard treatment: They deliberately picked a donor who was immune to HIV.
About 1 percent of Caucasians carry a gene mutation that triggers this immunity. In scientific terms, this means their cells don’t have CCR5, a protein that opens the door for HIV to enter blood cells. For Brown, it meant a new chance at life.
Brown received two stem cell transplants that knocked out his cancer and transferred the genetic variation to his immune system.
“It’s an incredible feeling – like a miracle,” he said. “I had two lethal diseases and was able to get rid of both of them.”
Now Brown, who was born in Seattle, heads the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation. On June 19, 2013 he is coming home to appear at an event highlighting Fred Hutch’s groundbreaking progress toward HIV cures for patients worldwide.