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Gastroenterology. 2008 May;134(5):1385-95. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.02.058. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Therapeutic vaccination of chronic hepatitis C nonresponder patients with the peptide vaccine IC41.

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  • 1Intercell AG, Vienna, Austria.



IC41 is a synthetic peptide vaccine containing 7 relevant hepatitis C virus (HCV) T-cell epitopes and the T helper cell (Th)1/Tc1 adjuvant poly-L-arginine. IC41 has been shown to be safe and to induce HCV-specific interferon (IFN)-gamma-secreting CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in healthy volunteers. We aimed to investigate whether IC41 is able to induce HCV-specific T-cell responses also in chronic hepatitis C patients.


Sixty HLA-A2-positive chronic HCV patients not responding to or relapsing from standard therapy were randomized in a double-blind phase II study into 5 groups to receive 6 vaccinations of IC41 (3 different dose groups), HCV peptides alone, or poly-L-arginine alone.


IC41 was well tolerated, and no drug-related serious adverse events or induction of hepatitis were observed. T-cell proliferation was recorded in up to 67% of patients in the 3 IC41 vaccine groups but only in 17% of patients treated with peptides alone. IFN-gamma enzyme-linked immunospot assay responses were observed exclusively in the IC41 groups with response rates up to 42%. There were 3 RNA responders with transient >1-log declines of HCV serum RNA associated with the strongest IFN-gamma enzyme-linked immunospot assay values within all 60 patients.


This study showed that the HCV peptide vaccine IC41 can induce HCV-specific Th1/Tc1 responses in a subset of difficult to treat HCV nonresponder patients despite persisting viremia. However, changes in HCV RNA occurred only in single patients. Because strongest T-cell responses were associated with HCV RNA decline, further studies with optimized vaccine regimens and combination therapies have been initiated.

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