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Research Offers New Hope for HIV/AIDS Patients with Cancer

Proposed Treatment for Herpes Virus that Causes Kaposi's Sarcoma Receives Translational Research Funding

By Steve Tokar | | August 21, 2012

Research Offers New Hope for HIV/AIDS Patients with Cancer

Charles S. Craik, PhD

A proposed new treatment to help HIV/AIDS patients suffering from Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common form of cancer in people with HIV, is now one step closer to becoming a reality.

Charles S. Craik, PhD, a professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy, has received new support to develop his latest research on the herpes virus that causes Kaposi’s sarcoma through a $100,000 T1 Translational Catalyst Award offered through UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). Craik, who works in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, is known for leading the team that identified HIV protease inhibitors in the late 1980s.

An especially promising aspect of Craik’s research is its potential to also lead to a new treatment for the cytomegalovirus (CMV), a related herpes virus that can lead to pneumonia and gastrointestinal, retinal and neurological diseases in infants and in transplant recipients and other immunocompromised individuals.

CTSI's Translational Catalyst Research Awards

Apply for T1 Translational Catalyst Awards through UCSF's RAP.
Deadline is Friday, Sept. 24.
More on T1 Translational Catalyst Awards: Take a brief survey or schedule a phone consultation with Ruben Rathnasingham, senior program manager for CTSI’s Early Translational Research program, which administers the award.

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A successful new CMV treatment would be “huge,” said Craik, who is also affiliated with the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) located at UCSF's Mission Bay campus. “Currently, there are very few treatments for CMV. If you don’t respond to them or can’t tolerate them, there’s nothing else to offer you.”

The immediate target of Craik’s prospective medication is Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus (KSHV) protease, an enzyme that cleaves proteins, Craik explains. Viruses, including HIV, use proteases to reproduce and to promote infection.