LAST EDITED ON Sep-04-13 AT 03:56 PM (CST)
Cervical cancer pioneer turns attention to herpes
September 4, 2013
The groundbreaking Brisbane research team that developed a world-first vaccine against cervical cancer is on the cusp of another breakthrough – a cure for genital herpes.
Led by immunologist Professor Ian Frazer, the team is currently undertaking the first human trials of the vaccine, which has proven to both prevent and cure the highly infectious sexually transmitted infection in laboratory tests on animals.
"This vaccine has something quite different driving it," said Professor Frazer, a former Australian of the Year.
"The sort of immune response you make should not only protect against future infection but get rid of the infection if you've already got it."
Professor Frazer said his team approached the development of its vaccine in a different way to other research teams.
"It sparks off the immune system in a way which resembles the way a body fights an infection, rather than in the way it prevents itself getting an infection," he said.
"It generates killer T-cells, which kill infected cells and also makes antibody, which protects."
The revolutionary treatment would be welcome news to millions of herpes sufferers across the globe, with an estimated one in eight adults thought to suffer from the disease.
Currently, the infection is a lifelong one, with those infected often having regular, painful outbreaks of blisters.
"Herpes is very infectious, it's one of these viruses you can catch from a single contact from someone who's got it," Professor Frazer said.
"Unfortunately it also has the capacity to be passed on by somebody who isn't aware they have the disease."
Unlike HPV-1, the virus that leads to cervical cancer, the herpes virus does not cause life-threatening illnesses.
But its social costs are un-quantifiable.
"People get embarrassed by it, herpes certainly is one of these diseases nobody would like to admit they have got and when they do get it they want to get rid of it as soon as they possibly can," he said.
Phase one of the human trial is underway but Professor Frazer said about 20 more volunteers were required.
The first participants need to be aged between 18 and 45 and have never had either a herpes infection or cold sore, as Professor Frazer said before testing the vaccine's ability to cure, researchers needed to first trial the immune response.
"We have to do the first bit to see if it does what we expect, this study is to see if we get the right type of immune response," he said.
If successful, the trials will be broadened in 2014.
Professor Frazer said it took seven years of research and trials before the cervical cancer vaccine was available, but hoped the herpes vaccine would be available faster.
Next on his research radar is skin cancer.
"Skin cancers require the body's defences to be in good nick to fight them, the immune system plays a critical part," he said.
"Investing in medical research really does make a difference.
"Once it's all working we take all these wonderful vaccines for granted because they are there, but once a upon a time they weren't.
"It's important to remind people that medical research is what delivers it at the end of the day.
"We used to have epidemics of polio and in 20 years time we will probably be saying the same about cervical cancer."
Coridon program's herpes vaccine trial facts:
This is the first human trial of this vaccine, and 20 Brisbane-based volunteers are needed.
The vaccine is designed to be confer both a preventative and a therapeutic benefit (prevent transmission of HSV-2 and treat HSV-2 infection).
The vaccine is administered via injection into the forearm.
The trial is designed to demonstrate the vaccine's safety and tolerability, as well as determining the effective dose and that it generates a robust immune response.
Trial Participant details:
The trial needs healthy male and female volunteers, aged 18-45 years, who have never had a cold sore.
Recruitment has started with dosing of subjects to take place in August and September.
The trial will be held at Q-Pharm Pty Ltd at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
Potential volunteers should contact Q-Pharm on 1300 774 276 or email email@example.com
Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/cervical-cancer-pioneer-turns-attention-to-herpes-20130903-2t35t.html#ixzz2dxnEM7UE