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Hum Pathol. 2004 Aug;35(8):971-82.

Vaccination to prevent and treat cervical cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the primary etiologic agents of cervical cancer. Thus, cervical cancer and other HPV-associated malignancies might be prevented or treated by HPV vaccines. Transmission of papillomavirus may be prevented by the generation of antibodies to capsid proteins L1 and L2 that neutralize viral infection. However, because the capsid proteins are not expressed at detectable levels by infected basal keratinocytes or in HPV-transformed cells, therapeutic vaccines generally target nonstructural early viral antigens. Two HPV oncogenic proteins, E6 and E7, are critical to the induction and maintenance of cellular transformation and are coexpressed in the majority of HPV-containing carcinomas. Thus, therapeutic vaccines targeting E6 and E7 may provide the best option for controlling HPV-associated malignancies. Various candidate therapeutic HPV vaccines are currently being tested whereby E6 and/or E7 are administered in live vectors, as peptides or protein, in nucleic acid form, as components of chimeric virus-like particles, or in cell-based vaccines. Encouraging results from experimental vaccination systems in animal models have led to several prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine clinical trials. If these preventive and therapeutic HPV vaccines prove successful in patients, as they have in animal models, then oncogenic HPV infection and its associated malignancies may be controllable by vaccination.

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