Cancer and Living with HIV
Effective anti-retroviral therapy for HIV infection has been a main factor contributing to improved survival for persons living with HIV. Now that more people with HIV are living longer, they are more likely to develop chronic diseases that occur at older ages, like cancer. In fact, cancer is now estimated to be one of the two leading causes of death for people living with HIV.
This is especially concerning for Moffit investigators because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida is one of the states with the highest number of new HIV diagnoses each year. In addition, the number of people living with HIV is higher than the national rate in at least seven of the 23 counties that Moffitt regularly serves, with notably higher rates observed in African American men compared to other patient groups in the catchment area.
At Moffitt, we are working to understand what living with HIV and cancer means for the survival of our patients, and we are striving to ensure that cancer patients with underlying HIV infection have equitable access to important cancer screening and cutting-edge treatment options. Our goal is to develop strategies for patients living with HIV and cancer in West and Central Florida, improving cancer prevention and treatment while offering access to the latest clinical trials.
When cancer is found early, it is more treatable. Find out when to schedule a cancer screening
"Moffitt is opening clinical trials specifically for patients living with HIV who also have diseases such as anal cancer, lymphoma and lung cancer. Our clear focus on HIV oncology will allow us to be a leader in providing the best possible care to patients living with HIV and cancer."
-Dr. Anna Coghill, AMC - AIDS Malignancy Consortium site principal investigator
In order for oncologists to provide the best care to their patients, they must know their patient’s full medical history, including their HIV status. Research has shown that cancer patients living with HIV are more likely to have poor clinical outcomes after a cancer diagnosis, which is why knowing a patient's HIV status is critical at the start of cancer treatment.
To address this, in 2021, researchers in the Population Science Division at Moffit created a system to help alert oncologists about upcoming appointments with patients living with HIV. At any point during a patient’s time at Moffitt, they always have the opportunity to share their HIV status with their clinic team.
HIV can lower a patient's ability to fight viral infections that may lead to cancers like Kaposi sarcoma, lymphoma, liver cancer, cervical cancer, anal cancer and head and neck cancers. Finding cancer early through screening is one of our greatest tools to fight cancer. We offer mammograms, colonoscopies and lung screenings at Moffitt, as well as a cancer screening access program to ensure equitable access to care for those who are uninsured. Moffitt also recommends receiving the HPV vaccine for most young adults.
Patients with HIV have long been excluded from clinical trials, including important clinical trials testing the impact of immunotherapy, a novel approach to treating cancer that uses the patient's own immune system to fight cancer. Given recommendations by the National Institute of Health that state that people living with HIV should not be excluded from clinical trials, Moffitt researchers are working to ensure that cancer patients living with HIV have options to participate in cancer clinical trials. As a commitment to this effort, Moffitt joined the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC) in 2021, a clinical trials network supported by the National Cancer Institute to specifically provide cancer prevention and therapeutic trials for people living with HIV.