Using a novel synthetic platform for creating vaccines originally developed in the laboratory of David Weiner, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, a team led by his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has successfully eradicated precancerous cervical lesions in nearly half of the women who received the investigational vaccine in a clinical trial. The goal, say the scientists, was to find nonsurgical ways to treat precancerous lesions caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
The vaccine is engineered to teach immune cells to recognize precancerous and cancerous cells. Those cells become coated with peptides derived from their stealth infection by two HPV strains that cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine, given by injection into the arm, is being developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., which funded the clinical trial, and whose employees co-authored the new report with senior author Cornelia Trimble, MD, professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Oncology, and Pathology at the Hopkins, which appears this month in The Lancet. Weiner is also a coauthor on the paper.
This research builds on ongoing projects to develop non-living, synthetic vaccines for generating potent killer T cell responses in humans for prevention and treatment of diseases including HIV/AIDS and MERS. This study represents the first vaccine of any type to eradicate a pre-existing infection, which, in this case, ultimately results in cervical cancer.
Synthetic DNA vaccine technology has many advantages over older technologies for vaccine production. The vaccines are non-living, easy to produce for clinical use, and can be rapidly developed and deployed. In contrast to most older vaccine technologies, which use pathogens as a starting point for vaccine development, synthetic DNA vaccines are not developed from live pathogens. Because these are non-living, they are safer in older people and patients on chemotherapy.
"We are delighted that this study reports that this DNA vaccine was well tolerated, generated potent anti-tumor killer T cells, which eliminated the cancer-causing virus, as well as precancerous lesions in many of this large group of women," Weiner said. "We believe that this novel platform is also important to explore to control more aggressive cancers."
Materials provided by Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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