Two preventative vaccines, Gardasil (Merck) and Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline) that work against the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) - a sexually transmitted infection and the primary cause of cervical cancer - are gaining favorable attention. The hope is that these vaccines could come close to eradicating cervical cancer.
However, as observed by Dr. John Rothman, Vice President of Clinical Development at Advaxis, Inc., a New Jersey-based biotech company, the vaccines are intended to prevent the occurrence of cervical cancer when administered before the individual is exposed to certain types of HPV.
“These vaccines cannot help treat those already infected with HPV, many of whom may develop cervical cancer. The risk of cervical cancer will continue to exist until the vaccinated population is sufficiently large to reduce transmission. This advance will likely take decades,” said Dr. Rothman.
So, the question remains: What option exists for women who have been exposed to HPV and are at risk for developing cervical cancer? Furthermore, what can be done for women who already have cervical cancer?
Advaxis hopes to ease those concerns with Lovaxin C, its therapeutic cancer vaccine that is about to enter Phase I/II clinical studies in women who have been exposed to HPV and have cervical cancer.
Central to Lovaxin C is the microbe Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found in dairy products. This common microorganism has been found to help fight cancer by activating the body’s own killer cells - cytotoxic T cells - to induce a stronger immune response to the presence of cancer cells.
Notably, it was Yvonne Paterson, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor to Advaxis and a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania, who discovered the cancer-fighting properties of a live, modified Listeria cancer vaccine she created, and brought the vaccine to Advaxis.
Dr. Paterson found that, when Listeria is introduced in the body, it has a powerful, direct stimulatory effect on tumor-killing T cells. The Lovaxin C vaccines teach the immune system to mount a specialized, targeted response lethal to cervical cancer.
“The upcoming preventative and Advaxis’ therapeutic vaccines will be complementary to each other,” said Dr. Rothman. “Their collective development will be a positive step in the battle against cervical cancer.”
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD