For vulvar lesions, the existing treatments are unpleasant and not altogether effective.
"What we typically do is ablative therapies that destroy the lesion. That involves a surgical procedure or topical agents that essentially slough off the lining of the affected tissue," Toy explained.
"Complete response rates [from these therapies] are disappointingly low, and we don't know if they last," added Zanotti.
For this study, 20 patients with vulvar dysplasia were vaccinated three or four times against certain cancer-related proteins associated with HPV-16.
Three months after the last vaccination, 60 percent of patients reported some kind of response along with fewer symptoms. For the same time period, five women (25 percent) saw their lesions disappear completely and four women had no more signs of HPV-16.
After a year, 79 percent of patients had experienced some kind of response while almost half had a complete response, which lasted at least 24 months, according to the report.
All of the patients showed immune responses to the vaccine.
Unlike Gardasil and Cervarix, which only affect the outside of the virus, the vaccine explored in this study was "trained to sense the proteins that are produced by the virus inside the cell. As such, they can recognize virally infected or virally transformed cells," van der Burg explained.
Also exciting is the possibility, mentioned in the paper, that the new vaccine could be combined with imiquimod cream to completely erase all signs of the infection and tainted cells.
Next, the researchers want to figure out why the vaccine did not have a complete effect in all patients and they would also like to improve the vaccine so it works in patients with actual cancer or even other, non-HPV-related cancers, van der Burg said.
All rights reserved