How Medical Center Research Led to New Cervical Cancer Vaccine

A new cervical cancer vaccine approved Oct. 16 by the Food and Drug Administration was developed as a result of research at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

In the mid-1990s, a team of Loyola researchers, Lutz Gissmann, Martin Muller, Jian Zhou and Jeanette Paintsil, invented the technology that has been developed into the vaccine, Cervarix. Gissmann said the licensee and manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, “has made a very strong, efficient vaccine.”

The vaccine is approved for girls and young women. It protects against two types of a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the predominant cause of cervical cancer. The Loyola researchers developed and patented the HPV vaccine, and did further studies to facilitate vaccine development by the manufacturer. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies to HPV. If an immunized individual is exposed to HPV, her immune system will be primed to attack and destroy the virus.

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in their 20s and 30s. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year, about 11,000 women of all ages will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 4,000 women will die of the disease.

The vaccine protects against Type 16 and Type 18 of the HP virus, which cause 75 percent of cervical cancers in North America. The vaccine may also provide protection against other cancer-causing HPV types.

“It is a very effective vaccine against the most common cause of cervical cancer, and it’s most effective when given to young women before exposure to the virus,” said Dr. Sondra Summers, an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stritch.

The work that Gissmann and his team did in developing the vaccine “is a good example of the type of research - ranging from the laboratory bench to the bedside - that is benefiting patients today and in the future,” said Richard Kennedy, Ph.D., senior associate dean of research at Stritch and vice president of Health Sciences Research at Loyola University Health System.

Other Loyola research breakthroughs include a blood test to quickly identify types of heart failure and techniques to diagnose and treat antibiotic-resistant infections. Loyola researchers and physicians also are studying a promising weapon against breast cancer called notch inhibitors, as well as a therapy that would help stroke patients by jump-starting the growth of nerve fibers.

“Loyola University Chicago and Loyola University Health System look forward to continuing their translational efforts that effectively bridge clinical care and
discovery in the laboratory,” Kennedy said.

Source:  Loyola University Health System

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