ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Once someone is infected with the human papillomavirus or HPV virus, there’s been absolutely nothing that cleared the infection until now. Researchers say they’ve had success in phase two trials of a new vaccine that helps the body rid itself of the virus.
For Sandy LaLonde, cancer was the last thing she was thinking about in her early thirties, until months of irregular periods convinced her to see her doctor for testing.
“She said we have bad news. Your high-risk HPV test came back positive and we’re pretty sure you have cervical cancer,” LaLonde said.
The cancer was stage two-a and had spread. Sandy needed eight rounds of chemo and 25 rounds of external radiation to treat it. Diane Harper, MD, MPH, MS, Senior Associate Director, MICHR, Professor, Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan is studying a new therapy that she hopes will wipe out cervical cancer by eliminating the HPV virus that can cause it.
Dr. Harper said, “Unlike chlamydia or gonorrhea where you can take an antibiotic and get cured, we don’t have anything that will get rid of HPV.”
Researchers enrolled 200 women with pre-cancerous cervical lesions and gave them three injections one week apart. The therapy was a protein that triggered an immune response.
Dr. Harper said, “It activates the immune system to go in and find the cells that are infected with HPV or the cells that have started to change because of HPV and attack them.”
At the end of six months between 25 and 33 percent of the participants were cleared of lesions and HPV.
“I think having the ability to clear the body of HPV is amazing because just because they don’t have cancer from it doesn’t mean they don’t have a whole host of other complications,” said LaLonde.
Dr. Harper says it’s important to note that the vaccine researchers are testing is different from Gardasil, the vaccine given to preteens to prevent HPV. The vaccine that is being tested clears tissue that already has HPV. Additional trials are needed before this new vaccine could be considered by the FDA for approval.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Jamison Koczan, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.
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TOPIC: WIPE OUT HPV WITH NEW VACCINE
REPORT: MB #4596
BACKGROUND: HPV stands for human papillomavirus. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is usually harmless and goes away by itself, but some types can lead to cancer or genital warts. There’s no cure for HPV. But there’s a lot you can do to keep HPV from having a negative impact on your health. There are vaccines that can help protect you from ever getting certain types of HPV. Genital warts can be removed by your nurse or doctor. High-risk HPV can usually be easily treated before it turns into cancer, which is why regular Pap/HPV tests are so important. While condoms and dental dams don’t offer complete protection, they can help lower your chances of getting HPV.
CANCERS: High-risk HPV is more likely to cause cancer. For most people, the immune system is able to get rid of this type of infection. But some people develop a lasting infection. Over many years, the infection transforms normal cells into precancerous lesions or cancer. HPV infection causes nearly all cervical cancers. Of the cervical cancers related to HPV, about 70% are caused by 2 types: HPV-16 or HPV-18. Smoking may increase the risk of cervical cancer for women who have HPV. Although almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, it is important to remember that most genital HPV infections will not cause cancer. Next is oral cancer. HPV can cause cancer of the mouth and tongue. It can also cause cancer of the oropharynx. This is the middle part of the throat, from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box. These HPV-related cancers are increasing in men and women. Changes in sexual behavior, including an increase in oral sex, may be contributing to the increase. Also, HPV is associated with less common cancers, including anal cancer, vulvar and vaginal cancers in women, and penile cancer in men.
NEW RESEARCH: Diane Harper, MD, MPH, MS, Senior Associate Director, MICHR, Professor, Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan talked about next steps for the new therapy: “The next steps for this is to figure out do we want to tweak the molecule to see if we can get a higher coverage rate? Or do we combine this with something else to be able to get a better cure, or potentially, such as in head and neck cancer, can we combine this with a chemotherapeutic agent in people who already have cancer to help their cure rates become even better.”
(Source: Diane Harper, MD, MPH, MS)
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