The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) announced on Oct. 30 that a Korean research team led by Sung Young-chul, professor of the Department of Life Sciences at Pohang University of Science and Technology, has succeeded in developing a vaccine that can treat cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). The vaccine is expected to be used in treating various cancers caused by carcinogenic human papillomavirus (HPV), including oral and anal cancers.
In general, CIN is caused by HPV, and 4.4 million Korean women are infected with HPV as of December 2011, accounting for 17.6 percent of the total. HPV can cause mole-shaped lesions around respiratory organs, eyes, or genitals. This virus is high risk, and 99 percent of CIN patients are believed to have it.
In Korea, 14.1 percent of HPV patents suffer from CIN, and 9 out of 100,000 women die each year. In 2006, a CIN vaccine was developed for the first time, and people have been vaccinated against the disease. However, HPV patents cannot be treated with this vaccine, and thus they have to rely on a surgical procedure called conization to remove lesions.
Nevertheless, conization may cause complications like metrostenosis, premature birth, or miscarriage. If HPV is not completely removed through surgery, it can return. To address the problem, the research team injected a DNA vaccine into patients suffering from late-stage CIN, discovering that 7 out of 9 patients were cleared of HPV, and lesions were eliminated as a result.
The team also found that it is important to get multi-functional killer T-cells activated in order to treat CIN completely. Killer T-cells kill virus-infected cells or cancer cells.
Professor Sung said, “We have been conducting phase II clinical trials in the country since May. We will accelerate efforts to clinically develop the vaccine by 2017, in partnership with global pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S. and Europe.”
The study was funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The research findings were first published online on Oct. 30 by Nature Communications, a bi-monthly scientific journal published by the Nature Publishing Group.