World-First Clinical Trial in the fight against head and neck cancer

Tuesday 25 July 2017

A new frontier in the fight against head and neck cancer

Research Group - Professors' Ian Frazer & Sandro Porceddu

The PA Research Foundation are funding a world-first clinical trial in the fight against incurable head and neck cancer caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

Professor Frazer, the developer of the world's first HPV vaccine, and Professor Porceddu a leading head and neck oncologist, have teamed up and are taking a targeted approach to this disease by aiming to trigger the body's own immune system to recognise the cancerous cells and attack them without the need for toxic treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. This is similar to the way the body handles a typical infection. Currently about 25% of HPV-related cancers will return following treatment and be considered incurable. This treatment is as simple as a small injection given under the skin of both forearms repeated on 2 to 3 occasions over a couple of months.

It is anticipated that the HPV anti-virus, developed by Professor Frazer and his team will produce antibodies that will attack cancer cells that have parts of the virus expressed on their surface. This immunotherapy approach essentially turns the light on the cancer so it is no longer hidden from the immune system, and hence the immune system kicks in to respond.

To date the team have successfully demonstrated that the HPV vaccine elicits an immune response and neutralises cancer in mice models. The aim of this study is to confirm the delivery of the vaccine is safe in humans and that it can elicit the same immune response.

If proven to be safe it will rapidly lead to large-scale confirmatory clinical trials and potentially revolutionize the way we treat head and neck cancer.

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