Head and Neck Cancers Coverage From Every Angle

Therapeutic Vaccine for HPV-Related Head and Neck Cancer

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Monday, November 12, 2018

Head and neck squamous cell cancer related to human papillomavirus (HPV) is among the fastest-growing cancer types. In a study published in Clinical Cancer Research, researchers found that a new therapeutic vaccine that targets HPV 16 and 18 subtypes may boost antibodies and T cells, helping them infiltrate HPV-related advanced head and neck squamous cell cancer tumors.

“We wanted to know if this vaccine can boost the immune systems of patients with HPV-related head and neck cancer, potentially opening the door for better response rates to other existing therapies, and our findings show that we can,” stated lead author Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in a Penn Medicine press release.

In the phase Ib/II study, the researchers gave 4 doses of the immunotherapeutic vaccine, MEDI0457, to 21 patients separated into 2 different groups. One group received a dose before surgery, followed by three doses after surgery; the second group received four doses following chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The vaccine was associated with mild injection-site reactions, but no serious treatment-related adverse events were reported.

A total of 18 patients (86%) showed elevated antigen-specific T-cell activity that lasted at least 3 months after the final vaccine dose; induction of HPV-specific CD8-positive T cells was observed. Five tumors were biopsied both before and after one dose of the vaccine, and there was evidence of T cells reacting with antigens contained in the vaccine in all five postvaccine samples. “We have not seen that kind of infiltration with just one dose of a vaccine before,” Dr. Aggarwal said. “These findings open the door for utilizing targeted immunotherapy approaches against specific cancer-causing targets like HPV.”

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