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New study identifies potential vaccine to prevent gastritis, ulcer disease, gastric cancer

  • When delivered intranasally, vaccine was found to be more effective
  • Funding will support future clinical trials to test effectiveness in humans

PROVIDENCE, R.I. A new study led by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital in collaboration with the University of Rhode Island (URI) and EpiVax. Inc, a privately owned vaccine development company in Providence, RI, has identified a potential vaccine capable of reducing colonization of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) -- a known cause of gastritis, ulcer disease and cancer. Their findings appear online in advance of print in the journal Vaccine.

Because the colonization of H. pylori has far-reaching health consequences, it represents a significant public health challenge. Current treatments use multiple antibiotics in combination with acid suppression medications to eradicate it. Due to an increase in antibiotic resistance, it is now more difficult to eliminate, and the development of a vaccine as an alternative therapy is of increased interest.

Steven Moss, M.D., is a gastroenterologist at Rhode Island Hospital and lead author of the paper. Moss, who is also a professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, says, "Normal immune mechanisms fail to eradicate H.pylori, but some prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine strategies using a wide variety of H. pylori antigens have been reported to be successful. The literature, however, does not define the optimal choice of antigen or the best delivery method."

Through an animal model study, Moss and his colleagues utilized a gene-to-vaccine approach, incorporating multiple epitopes (a part of an antigen that is recognized by the immune system) and administered them both intranasally and intramuscularly. The results of the study suggest that when the vaccine was delivered intranasally it was more effective. Moss says, "We found that the multi-epitope vaccine induced a broad immune response that led to a significant reduction in H. pylori colonization."

Anne S. De Groot, M.D., initiated the HelicoVax research program in 2005 in her company, EpiVax, Inc., with funding from a National Institutes of Health small business research award. De Groot comments, "This project illustrates the power of persistence and collaboration between the biotech industry and academe, especially when it comes to emerging infectious disease vaccines."

Moss concludes, "These encouraging, though preliminary, results suggest that further development of an epitope-based mucosal vaccine against H. pylori can potentially lead to a novel approach to prevent H. pylori-associated diseases such as peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer in humans. We are now receiving further NIH funding to continue this collaboration with URI and EpiVax and are starting to translate this approach from mice to human subjects."

Moss is also a physician with University Medicine, (, a non-profit, multi-specialty medical group practice employing many of the full-time faculty of the department of medicine of the Alpert Medical School.


Contact: Nancy Cawley Jean

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