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5 Calif. Medical Centers Get Federal AIDS Funding : U.S. Funds 5 Calif. Centers in AIDS Tests

Associated Press

Federal health authorities today awarded contracts to 14 medical centers nationwide to test experimental drugs and other treatments on patients with AIDS. Five of the centers are in California and three are in New York--the two states with the highest incidence of the disease.

The California medical centers that will participate in the program are at UCLA, USC, Stanford University, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco.

An estimated $100 million is to go to the centers over the next five years in an effort to evaluate new treatments and to coordinate studies in the fight against acquired immune deficiency syndrome, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

1,000 Patients Expected

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The agency, part of the National Institutes of Health, said it expected as many as 1,000 patients to be enrolled at the AIDS Treatment Evaluation Units within the next six months.

Among the other major medical facilities awarded contracts are the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and medical centers at New York University, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the University of Miami.

AIDS, an incurable and fatal condition that results in destruction of the body’s protective immune system, has been diagnosed in more than 22,000 Americans since 1981. There is no effective treatment for the disease, which has been fatal in 50% of diagnosed cases.

Blood Cells Attacked

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The disease is caused by a virus which attacks white blood cells that are key to the immune system. The virus is spread through intimate contact with the victim’s bodily fluids, such as blood and semen, and the majority of cases have involved promiscuous male homosexuals, intravenous drug abusers and those receiving infected blood or blood products.

Fauci said drugs are needed to inhibit the growth of the virus and to rebuild the decimated immune systems of sufferers. In addition, treatments are needed to fight the opportunistic infections that prey on people with damaged immune systems.

Promising Drugs

The new evaluation units will study therapeutic agents that have shown some promise in laboratory studies and preliminary clinical trials.

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Fauci said agents likely to be tested in the first year of the centers include antiviral drugs and so-called immune modulators--natural proteins that activate parts of the immune system. Initial studies will focus on determining safe doses and establishing the therapeutic value of each agent, health officials said.


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