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HPV vaccine enters human trials

Monday 02 March 2020

In a world first, human trials will commence for HPV related head and neck cancers at the PA Hospital Campus, thanks to PA hospital researchers.

The treatment will consist of using a groundbreaking new approach to treat head and neck cancers, including the use of the HPV vaccine combined with an immunotherapy drug.

Evidence suggests global incidence of HPV-related head and neck cancer is rapidly on the rise. In Australia, tonsil and base of tongue cancer accounts for 1500 deaths every year, of which 500 are related to HPV, with this number set to increase in the next decade.

Prof Sandro Porceddu, Director of Radiation and Oncology at the PA Hospital, is leading the trial to treat incurable HPV cancers of the throat, after initial success of first-in-human trials proving the safety of the new HPV vaccine developed by Professor Ian Frazer.

"For the first time, this double-prong approach combines a class of drugs designed to kick-start the immune system, known as a checkpoint inhibitor, with an HPV vaccine to activate the immune system to attack the cancer," said Prof Porceddu.

"The addition of this immunotherapy drug takes the 'brakes off the immune system' enhancing the body's ability to attack the cancer which is similar to how the body manages infections," he said

PA Research Foundation is proud to have contributed to this research in its infancy – supporting the initial proof of efficacy component of the project. This was made possible thanks to donor directed funding, which provided seed funding to help progress this research to clinical trials.