Cervical cancer results from infection with high-risk type human papillomaviruses (HPV). Therapeutic vaccines aiming at controlling existing genital HPV infections and associated lesions are usually tested in mice with HPV-expressing tumor cells subcutaneously implanted into their flank. However, effective vaccine-induced regression of these ectopic tumors strongly contrasts with the poor clinical results of these vaccines produced in patients with HPV-associated genital neoplasia. To assess HPV therapeutic vaccines in a more relevant setting, we have, here, established an orthotopic mouse model where tumors in the genital mucosa (GM) develop after an intravaginal instillation of HPV16 E6/E7-expressing tumor cells transduced with a luciferase-encoding lentiviral vector for in vivo imaging of tumor growth. Tumor take was 80-90% after nonoxynol-9 induced damage of the epithelium. Tumors remained localized in the genital tract, and histological analysis showed that most tumors grew within the squamous epithelium of the vaginal wall. Those tumors induced (i) E7-specific CD8 T cells restricted to the GM and draining lymph nodes, in agreement with their mucosal location and (ii) high Foxp3+ CD4+ infiltrates, similarly to those found in natural non-regressing HPV lesions. This novel genital HPV-tumor model by requiring GM homing of vaccine-induced immune responses able to overcome local immuno-suppression may be more representative of the situation occurring in patients upon therapeutic vaccination.
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