Adam Castillejo ‘feared dying of cancer more than Aids and considered ending it all at Dignitas’ Daily Mail – westofthepond.com

Posted: March 30, 2020 at 8:49 pm

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Adam Castillejo (pictured), 40, was known only as the London Patient when doctors revealed his success story last March after a stem cell transplant to treat his cancer.

The second person to be cured of HIV has revealed how he was more fearful of dying from cancer than Aids and considered ending his life at Dignitas.Adam Castillejo, 40, was known only as the London Patient when doctors revealed his success story last March after a stem cell transplant to treat his cancer.He remained anonymous until he decided he wanted to be seen as an ambassador of hope after struggling with his health for almost two decades.Mr Castillejo, who was born in Venezuela and moved to London in 2002, was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2012, having already lived with HIV since 2003.His last hope of cancer survival was a bone marrow transplant from a donor with HIV-resistant genes that could wipe out his cancer and virus in one fell swoop.But in a powerful interview with The Sunday Times,Mr Castillejo admitted that he was more fearful of dying from stage 4 Hodgkins lymphoma than Aids.Calling the second diagnosis another death sentence, the sou-chef revealed that he panicked because cancer can kill you faster than HIV.Adam Castillejo, 40, was known only as the London Patient when doctors revealed his success story last March after a stem cell transplant to treat his cancerMr Castillejo embarked upon a gruelling treatment regime that left him physically emaciated and pushed the Venezuelan to the mental edge.Both illnesses became one because you had to deal with the anti-retroviral medications not interfering with thechemotherapy regime and vice versa, he said.By the end of 2014, he said that he had given up on battling the two illnesses, and had made up his mind to end it all at Dignitas in Switzerland.Around this time,Mr Castillejo disappeared, and was found four days later outside London psychologically broken. He does not remember this period.Doctors gave him six months to live, before a switch flicked.At that time I accepted straight away, because what choice have I got? I would rather die fighting, he explained.Within days, he met with Dr Ian Gabriel at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, who advised that he could attempt a bone marrow transplant.The procedure in May 2016 meantMr Castillejo was cleared of both cancer and HIV.But he lost five stone and took 60 pills a day, revealing: I told my doctors there werent enough hours in the day to take all the medication I needed.Mr Castillejo, who was born in Venezuela and moved to London in 2002, was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2012, having already lived with HIV since 2003An American man treated in Germany 12 years ago called Timothy Ray Brown (pictured) the so-called Berlin Patient also survived the transplantHe also developed mouth ulcers which inhibited his ability to eat, and his anti-retroviral medication had to be crushed and washed down.Mr Castillejo also claimed that he felt victimised and guilty when he told people that he was suffering from HIV, saying: This is a punishment for you.The Venezuelan chef is the second person to have survived the life-threatening technique and come out the other side HIV-free.An American man treated in Germany 12 years ago called Timothy Ray Brown the so-called Berlin Patient also survived the transplant.He was put into an induced coma for six months, however.Experts have hailed the treatment as a milestone in the fight against HIV, but are urging caution when calling it a cure so early on.In the context of HIV infection, the term cure means there are no virus-carrying cells left.Anti-retroviral therapy is very effective at reducing the viral load in the blood of infected individuals so that it cannot be transmitted to others.Unfortunately, the Berlin and London Patients cases do not change the reality much for 37 million HIV patients.The treatment is unlikely to have potential on a wider scale because both Mr Castillejo and Mr Ray Brown were given stem cells to treat cancer, not HIV.Stem cell and bone marrow transplants are life-threatening operations with huge risks. Patients can suffer a fatal reaction if substitute immune cells dont take.In his private life, Mr Castillejo likes to walk the streets of Shoreditch and travel.Kat Smithson, director of policy at National AIDS Trust, said: We applaud the London Patient Adam Castillejo for sharing his unique experience of having his HIV cured following a bone-marrow transplant to treat cancer. Mr Castillejo has been through a long and extremely challenging journey with his health, within which HIV is just one part.His decision to speak about his experience without anonymity can only enrich our understanding of his experience on a human level, and we thank him for this.Theres still a great deal of stigma around HIV which can make it harder for people to access the services and support they need and for people to talk openly about HIV.His story helps raise much-needed awareness of HIV, but broader than that its a story about incredible resilience, determination and hope.How a stem cell transplant cured the Berlin and London Patients and how it can go badly wrongUsually, HIV patients expect to stay on daily pills for life to suppress the virus. When drugs are stopped, the virus roars back, usually in two to three weeksThe vast majority of humans carry the gene CCR5.In many ways, it is incredibly unhelpful. It affects our odds of surviving and recovering from a stroke, according to recent research.And it is the main access point for HIV to overtake our immune systems.But some people carry a mutations that prevents CCR5 from expressing itself, effectively blocking or eliminating the gene.Those few people in the world are called elite controllers by HIV experts. They are naturally resistant to HIV.If the virus ever entered their body, they would naturally control the virus as if they were taking the virus-suppressing drugs that HIV patients require.Both the Berlin patient and the London patient received stem cells donated from people with that crucial mutation.WHY HAS IT NEVER WORKED BEFORE?There are many reasons this hasnt worked, Dr Janet Siliciano, at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told DailyMail.com.1. FINDING DONORSIts incredibly difficult to find HLA-matched bone marrow [i.e. someone with the same proteins in their blood as you], Dr Siliciano said.Its even more difficult to find the CCR5 mutation.2. INEFFECTIVE TRANSPLANT LEADS TO CANCER RELAPSESecond, there is a risk that the bone marrow wont take.Sometimes you dont become fully chimeric, meaning you still have a lot of your own cells.This means they will not defeat the cancer if it returns again.3. THE OLD IMMUNE SYSTEM ATTACKS THE NEW ONEThe other most common reason this approach has failed is graft-versus-host disease: whenthe patients immune system tries to attack the incoming, replacement immune system, causing a fatal reaction in most.4. UNKNOWN QUANTITIESInterestingly, both the Berlin patient and the London patient experienced complications that are normally lethal in most other cases.And experts believe that those complications helped their cases.Timothy Ray Brown, the Berlin patient, had both his cancer returned and he developed graft-versus-host disease, putting him in a coma and requiring a second bone marrow transplant.The London patient had one: he suffered graft-versus-host disease.Against the odds, they both survived, HIV-free.Some believe that, ironically, graft-versus-host disease might have helped both of them to further obliterate their HIV.But there is no way to control or replicate that safely.

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Adam Castillejo 'feared dying of cancer more than Aids and considered ending it all at Dignitas' Daily Mail - westofthepond.com

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