Research ArticleHPV

Immunotherapy Against HPV16/18 Generates Potent TH1 and Cytotoxic Cellular Immune Responses

Science Translational Medicine  10 Oct 2012:
Vol. 4, Issue 155, pp. 155ra138
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004414

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Despite the development of highly effective prophylactic vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) serotypes 16 and 18, prevention of cervical dysplasia and cancer in women infected with high-risk HPV serotypes remains an unmet medical need. We report encouraging phase 1 safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity results for a therapeutic HPV16/18 candidate vaccine, VGX-3100, delivered by in vivo electroporation (EP). Eighteen women previously treated for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 or 3 (CIN2/3) received a three-dose (intramuscular) regimen of highly engineered plasmid DNA encoding HPV16 and HPV18 E6/E7 antigens followed by EP in a dose escalation study (0.3, 1, and 3 mg per plasmid). Immunization was well tolerated with reports of mild injection site reactions and no study-related serious or grade 3 and 4 adverse events. No dose-limiting toxicity was noted, and pain was assessed by visual analog scale, with average scores decreasing from 6.2/10 to 1.4 within 10 min. Average peak interferon-γ enzyme-linked immunospot magnitudes were highest in the 3 mg cohort in comparison to the 0.3 and 1 mg cohorts, suggesting a trend toward a dose effect. Flow cytometric analysis revealed the induction of HPV-specific CD8+ T cells that efficiently loaded granzyme B and perforin and exhibited full cytolytic functionality in all cohorts. These data indicate that VGX-3100 is capable of driving robust immune responses to antigens from high-risk HPV serotypes and could contribute to elimination of HPV-infected cells and subsequent regression of the dysplastic process.

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