02:21am Friday 22 November 2019

Penn-developed, DNA-based Vaccine Clears Nearly Half of Precancerous Cervical Lesions in Clinical Trial

The vaccine is engineered to teach immune cells to recognize precancerous and cancerous cells. Those cells become coated with peptides derived from their stealth infection by two HPV strains that cause cervical cancer.

The vaccine, given by injection into the arm, is being developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., which funded the clinical trial, and whose employees co-authored the new report with senior author Cornelia Trimble, MD, professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Oncology, and Pathology at the Hopkins, which appears this month in The Lancet. Weiner is also a coauthor on the paper.

This research builds on ongoing projects to develop non-living, synthetic vaccines for generating potent killer T cell responses in humans for prevention and treatment of diseases including HIV/AIDS and MERS. This study represents the first vaccine of any type to eradicate a pre-existing infection, which, in this case, ultimately results in cervical cancer. 

Synthetic DNA vaccine technology has many advantages over older technologies for vaccine production. The vaccines are non-living, easy to produce for clinical use, and can be rapidly developed and deployed. In contrast to most older vaccine technologies, which use pathogens as a starting point for vaccine development, synthetic DNA vaccines are not developed from live pathogens. Because these are non-living, they are safer in older people and patients on chemotherapy.  

“We are delighted that this study reports that this DNA vaccine was well tolerated, generated potent anti-tumor killer T cells, which eliminated the cancer-causing virus, as well as precancerous lesions in many of this large group of women,” Weiner said. “We believe that this novel platform is also important to explore to control more aggressive cancers.”

Additional details are available in the full Johns Hopkins news release.


Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report‘s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $409 million awarded in the 2014 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report — Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital — the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2014, Penn Medicine provided $771 million to benefit our community.

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