Strategies in the treatment of AIDS and related diseases: the lessons of cancer chemotherapy

Cancer Invest. 1992;10(2):143-53. doi: 10.3109/07357909209032775.


The replication cycle of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) consists of four distinct stages, each of which can be targeted for specific antiviral chemotherapy. The stages are (1) the attachment of virus to the CD4 receptor at the cell surface; (2) the uncoating of viral nucleic acid and its conversion via viral reverse transcriptase activity to DNA; (3) cellular multiplication, accompanied by the replication of integrated proviral DNA and production of viral RNA and proteins; and (4) the assembly and liberation of progeny virus from the cell and the potential reinitiation of the replication cycle in previously uninfected cells. Since each of these steps represents a potential target for anti-HIV chemotherapy, it is apparent that the rationale for the use of antiviral drugs is not dissimilar from the manner in which antineoplastic agents are targeted to specific stages in the replication cycle of tumor cells. As in the case of anticancer chemotherapy, it is hoped that combinations of drugs, which act against different steps in the viral replication cycle, might have synergistic potential. AZT or zidovudine is the most widely used drug to date to impede the replication of HIV-1; it is significant that this compound was designed initially with anticancer chemotherapy in mind. Although AZT therapy has been reasonably successful, this drug has had important toxic side effects. As in the case of many cancer chemotherapeutic agents, drug resistance to AZT is likely to be an important problem, and there have been several reports of the isolation of drug-resistant variants of HIV-1.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV-1 / drug effects
  • HIV-1 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents