Protective and therapeutic HPV vaccine under development at Georgetown

August 19, 2005

Armed with a new award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/ National Institutes of Health, Richard Schlegel, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Georgetown University Medical Center's Department of Pathology and a Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher, is working on an inexpensive, portable vaccine to both treat women infected by human papillomavirus (HPV) and to protect others from becoming infected.

His work is supported by a new $3.5 million award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/ National Institutes of Health. The award is shared with resaerchers at the University of Colorado, the Ludwig Cancer Institute in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the German Cancer Center in Heidelberg, Germany.

HPV can cause cervical cancer, which is diagnosed in approximately 500,000 women each year and is the second leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide. The virus is especially prevalent in developing countries, and no vaccine yet exists that can be easily used in all parts of the world.

Dr. Schlegel's work centers on the biology of papillomaviruses and their role in the genesis of cervical cancer, and he has long worked on new approaches to protecting women in developing countries against HPV. His research into the protein shell that surrounds the HPV particle hs been used in an experimental vaccine, known as Cervarix, which is already being tested in clinical trials.

Cervarix, however, is only designed to prevent HPV infection, and is difficult to transport because it must be kept frozen. Dr. Schlegel and his colleagues are working on a next era vaccine that is both protective and therapeutic, and which can be converted into powder. It can be shipped dry, and then, when it reaches clinics, it can be reconstituted with water and injected. It will also be less expensive than Cervarix.

Georgetown University Medical Center

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