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Expert Rev Vaccines. 2013 Feb;12(2):129-41. doi: 10.1586/erv.12.151.

Virus-like particles for the prevention of human papillomavirus-associated malignancies.

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Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21287-0014, USA.


As compared with peptide- or protein-based vaccines, naked DNA vectors and even traditional attenuated or inactivated virus vaccines, virus-like particles (VLPs) are an attractive vaccine platform, as they offer a combination of safety, ease of production and both high-density B-cell epitope display and intracellular presentation of T-cell epitopes that induce potent humoral and cellular immune responses, respectively. Indeed, HPV vaccines based on VLP production by recombinant expression of major capsid antigen L1 in yeast (Gardasil(®), Merck & Co., NJ, USA) or insect cells (Cervarix(®), GlaxoSmithKline, London, UK) have been licensed for the prevention of cervical and anogenital infection and disease associated with the genotypes targeted by each vaccine. However, these HPV vaccines have not been demonstrated as effective to treat existing infections, and efforts to develop a therapeutic HPV vaccine continue. Furthermore, current HPV L1-VLP vaccines provide type-restricted protection, requiring highly multivalent formulations to broaden coverage to the dozen or more oncogenic HPV genotypes. This raises the complexity and cost of vaccine production. The lack of access to screening and high disease burden in developing countries has spurred efforts to develop second-generation HPV vaccines that are more affordable, induce wider protective coverage and offer therapeutic coverage against HPV-associated malignancies. Given the previous success with L1-VLP-based vaccines against HPV, VLPs have been also adopted as platforms for many second-generation HPV and non-HPV vaccine candidates with both prophylactic and therapeutic intent. In this article, the authors examine the progress and challenges of these efforts, with a focus on how they inform VLP vaccine design.

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