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By Prof Lucy Dorrell, Jenner Investigator

prof-lucy-dorrell-newsletter.jfifHigh Risk Human Papillomavirus (HR HPV) infections are responsible for cervical cancers and a substantial proportion of genital and head and neck cancers. Over half a million women worldwide develop cervical cancer each year, due to lack of access to screening programmes or preventive vaccines.

Currently, the treatment for pre-invasive disease, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), is surgical ablation. Since T cell responses play a crucial role in regression of HR HPV lesions and virus  clearance, we are developing a therapeutic vaccine candidate as an alternative, non-invasive therapy for CIN.

Our approach is to utilize the Jenner Institute’s potent viral vector primeboost platform to deliver a unique HPV immunogen that provides coverage of the most common High Risk genotypes across the world. With start-up funds from Oxford Cancer Centre and a MRC Confidence in Concept award we have been able to develop and test three vaccine candidates in a mouse model. The results so far are highly encouraging: systemic prime-boost vaccinations elicit strong and broad T cell responses in the circulation and more importantly, in the cervix.

In parallel, we are launching a large prospective cohort study of natural immunity to HPV, funded by a Cancer Research UK award. The results of this study will help us to optimise our immunogen design before embarking on clinical trials in the UK.