Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous skin lesion that is common in HIV-positive patients. Without effective treatment, AKs can progress to squamous cell carcinoma. Ingenol mebutate, a PKC agonist, is a US Food and Drug Administration-approved (FDA-approved) topical treatment for AKs. It can induce reactivation of latent HIV transcription in CD4+ T cells both in vitro and ex vivo. Although PKC agonists are known to be potent inducers of HIV expression from latency, their effects in vivo are not known because of the concerns of toxicity. Therefore, we sought to determine the effects of topical ingenol mebutate gel on the HIV transcription profile in HIV-infected individuals with AKs, specifically in the setting of suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART). We found that AKs cleared following topical application of ingenol mebutate and detected marginal changes in immune activation in the peripheral blood and in skin biopsies. An overall increase in the level of HIV transcription initiation, elongation, and complete transcription was detected only in skin biopsies after the treatment. Our data demonstrate that application of ingenol mebutate to AKs in ART-suppressed HIV-positive patients can effectively cure AKs as well as disrupt HIV latency in the skin tissue microenvironment in vivo without causing massive immune activation.
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