HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is one of the most common STI’s and is easily transmitted to partners. We know that some strains of HPV, in particular strain 16 and 18, are implicated in the development of cervical, anal and oro-pharyngeal cancer. Although vaccines to protect against these types of HPV have been around for some time ( Gardasil/Cervarix), they are meant to provide protection against infection. To date there has been no vaccine to treat those already infected. However progress with therapeutic vaccines are being made as this study shows.

Cervical cancer is the second most common female specific cancer worldwide. The biggest risk for developing this cancer (and also for anal and oro-pharyngeal cancer) is persistent HPV infection with one of the more difficult and high risk strains.

Now, Genexine a Korean Biopharma company have published exciting results of a phase 1 study of a therapeutic vaccine candidate, GX-188E. The vaccine is a immunotherapeutic vaccine and was given to women with biopsy proven CIN 3 (the most advanced grade of pre-cancerous tissue)

The vaccine resulted in complete viral clearance in conjunction with lesion regression in 7 out of the 9 participants in the study. The patients were given 3 injections over 12 weeks. By week 36 lesions were completely gone in 7 of the patients and there have been no cases of lesion recurrence up to 1 year post administration. The vaccine also appeared safe with few side effects s

There have been several studies of vaccine candidates for HPV but so far none of them have yielded efficacy rates above 50%. This is one of the first studies that have had such a high success rate and in addition evidence that the vaccine elicits specific T cell response by targeting HPV antigens in dendritic cells.

The team are now performing a phase 2 clinical trail with 72 patients who have CIN and other studies are expected to start in Europe in 2015

If the results can be replicated it would be great news for the thousands of people affected by HPV and importantly could give us a treatment that can cure HPV related cervical, anal and other cancers