Timing of Antiretroviral Therapy Initiation and Risk of Cancer Among Persons Living With Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Jun 1;72(11):1900-1909. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1046.


Background: Persons living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; PLWH) experience a high burden of cancer. It remains unknown which cancer types are reduced in PLWH with earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Methods: We evaluated AIDS-free, ART-naive PLWH during 1996-2014 from 22 cohorts participating in the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design. PLWH were followed from first observed CD4 of 350-500 cells/µL (baseline) until incident cancer, death, lost-to-follow-up, or December 2014. Outcomes included 6 cancer groups and 5 individual cancers that were confirmed by chart review or cancer registry linkage. We evaluated the effect of earlier (in the first 6 months after baseline) versus deferred ART initiation on cancer risk. Marginal structural models were used with inverse probability weighting to account for time-dependent confounding and informative right-censoring, with weights informed by subject's age, sex, cohort, baseline year, race/ethnicity, HIV transmission risk, smoking, viral hepatitis, CD4, and AIDS diagnoses.

Results: Protective results for earlier ART were found for any cancer (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0.57; 95% confidence interval [CI], .37-.86), AIDS-defining cancers (HR 0.23; 95% CI, .11-.49), any virus-related cancer (HR 0.30; 95% CI, .16-.54), Kaposi sarcoma (HR 0.25; 95% CI, .10-.61), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (HR 0.22; 95% CI, .06-.73). By 15 years, there was also an observed reduced risk with earlier ART for virus-related NADCs (0.6% vs 2.3%; adjusted risk difference -1.6; 95% CI, -2.8, -.5).

Conclusions: Earlier ART initiation has potential to reduce the burden of virus-related cancers in PLWH but not non-AIDS-defining cancers (NADCs) without known or suspected viral etiology.

Keywords: HIV; antiretroviral therapy; cancer; causal inference; epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Sarcoma, Kaposi*

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