Funding also backs training and recruitment of researchers.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center has won an $11.5 million grant from the NCI to explore cervical cancer research, prevention, and treatment. The Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in cervical cancer also includes Johns Hopkins University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The SPORE grant will focus on next-generation HPV vaccines for the prevention of cervical cancer. It will also test therapeutic agents that have shown promise in preventing, slowing, or effectively treating the disease. Three of the project’s four experimental HPV vaccines will be tested at UAB, says Warner Huh, M.D., an associate scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and cervical SPORE co-leader.
The projects include the L1 capsomere HPV vaccine, L2 prophylactic HPV vaccine, genetic HPV vaccine, and genetic HPV vaccine delivered by gene gun. The L1 capsomere HPV vaccine is based on HPV cell structures called L1 capsomeres. It is being designed as a low-cost vaccine that can be stored at room temperature. A Phase I trial is planned to compare it to HPV vaccines that must be refrigerated, such as Merck & Co.’s Gardasil.
Under the L2 prophylactic HPV vaccine program, testing is under way to find an agent that targets an HPV protein called L2. The aim is to design a vaccine that generates antibodies capable of preventing infection by a diverse number of HPV strains.
Investigations also continue for a vaccine that triggers an immune response against HPV through delivery of genetic information contained in the cell under the genetic HPV vaccine project. The genetic DNA-based vaccine targets some of the cell changes happening during HPV infection. The final program, genetic HPV vaccine delivered by gene gun, will leverage an experimental injector gun with the genetic HPV vaccine.
In addition to these research projects, the SPORE grant includes a career-development program to recruit and train the next generation of cervical cancer researchers.