Sexual Health news - Sexually Transmitted Diseases

New HPV vaccine may treat women already infected with the virus

When the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix were developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent individuals from being infected with the virus, the world had its first method to avert a type of cancer. Now, a new immunization has been created for HPV, but this time, it aims to treat the sexually transmitted disease, which is the biggest cause of cervical cancer, in females who are already infected.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals developed the VGX-3100 vaccine that incites the body's immune system once it is infected with strains 16 and 18 of the virus, which are most closely linked to cervical cancer. In early trials, researchers deemed it successful among women who were actively receiving treatment for the virus, according to the results published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The National Institute of Cancer reports that, in 2012, there were more than 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer and approximately 4,200 deaths. This slow-growing cancer often does not exhibit symptoms, but can be diagnosed by annual Pap smears.

Research is currently ongoing
The vaccine injects a selected piece of DNA into a patient's cells. This action causes the body to produce a certain protein that triggers the immune system to attack any cells infected with HPV.

"The goal is to stimulate and amplify the patient's own immune system to fight off the precancer and cancer," said Joseph Kim, the study's author.

Researchers gave three doses, accompanied by a small electrical pulse, to 18 affected patients in the clinical trial. They observed the desired immune response against the virus and there were few side effects reported. Currently, the team of investigators is working on their second trial, expanding it to 150 participants. If successful, the vaccine could be available sometime within the next four to six years.

The possibility of an immunization for cervical cancer may be a great option for women who didn't receive Gardasil or Cervarix, which is most successful when administered to adolescents and teenagers before they begin engaging in any sexual activity, and are diagnosed with an infection early.

Currently, 10 percent of women around the globe are infected with HPV. Some cases get cleared out of the body on their own, while others can cause adverse health complications, such as cancer and dysplasia.