Even with effective anti-retroviral therapy (ART), people living with HIV are at increased risk of many medical issues compared to the general population. One of the most important of these is cancer. The risk of cancer is twice that of the general population, and now represents the leading cause of death for people with HIV. There is much to learn about cancer by studying its development in people with HIV, both to develop ways to prevent and treat cancer in that population and to improve our understanding of cancer more generally. Some new cancer drugs may also affect HIV persistence, with potential implications for HIV eradication and cure. This fundamental research requires access to scientific samples from people with HIV and cancer, but these are not currently available in standard cancer biobanks. This lack of access is a major barrier to cancer research in this population.
The Kirby Institute, in partnership with St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and collaborating institutions across Australia, has established the region’s first clinically-annotated biorepository (biobank) for people with HIV and cancer: the HIV, Immunity and Cancer Cohort Biobank (HI-C). A biobank is a collection of samples, including tissue and blood, linked to clinical information that is stored and made available to researchers all over the world, now and into the future. This key research infrastructure is a crucial step to facilitating science and to contribute to advancing knowledge in this population.
The HI-C biobank will collect clinical information, blood and tissue while a participant is undergoing anti-cancer therapy. The biobank is intended to facilitate studies investigating the following key research questions:
- The role of the immune system in the development of cancer in people with HIV
- The genetics of cancer in people with HIV
- The impact of new anti-cancer agents on cancer causing viruses in people with HIV
- The impact of new anti-cancer agents on HIV persistence.
Sample stored will include tumour tissue, serum samples and peripheral blood mononuclear cells, along with key clinical characteristics for each participant. Participants provide written informed consent for collection and for data linkage to other outcome databases.
HI-C has gained ethical approval to begin recruiting at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. Additionally, collaborations are being set-up, with other hospitals and research institutes, to expand the study across the country.
This biobank will provide an extremely valuable resource that will be accessible to researchers across the globe. The research made possible by HI-C will benefit both the HIV-infected and uninfected populations by studying the development of cancer, helping to improve its prevention, detection and therapy. HI-C will also enable researchers to study the effects of anti-cancer therapies in people with HIV and their effects on HIV persistence.
- St Vincent's Hospital – New South Wales