Cancer drugs could prove effective in treating HIV as new research has found that the virus can be flushed out of its hiding places in the body using a cancer drug.

According to BBC, anti-retroviral therapy kills the virus in the bloodstream but leaves "HIV reservoirs" untouched.

The study, published in PLoS Pathogens, showed the drug was "highly potent" at reactivating hidden HIV.

This was demonstrated in the case of a Mississippi baby who was given antiretroviral drugs at birth.

Despite appearing to be free of HIV for nearly two years after stopping treatment, she was found to be harbouring the virus.

Thus, researchers describe the process as a "kick and kill" strategy which is thought to be key to curing HIV - the kick would wake up the dormant HIV allowing the drugs to kill it.

In testing this, a team at the UC Davis School of Medicine investigated PEP005, one of the ingredients in a treatment to prevent cancer in sun-damaged skin.

The group tested the drug in cells grown in the laboratory and in parts of the immune system taken from 13 people with HIV, where it was found that PEP005 was "highly potent in reactivating latent HIV" and that "the chemical represents "a new group of lead compounds for combating HIV".

The drug has however not been tested in people who are HIV positive.

Scientists however expressed excitement and optimism at the discovery with Prof Sharon Lewin, from the University of Melbourne saying it marked an "important advance in finding new compounds that can activate latent HIV".