Human papillomavirus therapeutic vaccines: targeting viral antigens as immunotherapy for precancerous disease and cancer

Expert Rev Vaccines. 2013 Mar;12(3):271-83. doi: 10.1586/erv.13.23.


Infections with oncogenic HPV types have the potential to lead to the induction of several types of cancer, notably cervical, vulvar, anal, and head and neck cancer. While prophylactic vaccines are currently available and show high efficacy against the establishment of HPV infection, low rates of initiation and lower rates of completion of the vaccination regimen, as well as the lack of an opportunity to be vaccinated prior to infection, has lead to the development of a patient population for whom no immune-based therapy for infection is available. In the current review the authors examine clinical approaches to HPV-targeted immune therapies, the bulk of which target the regulatory proteins E6 and E7 that are constitutively expressed in HPV-associated cancer cells. Early studies demonstrate a correlation between induction of T-cell responses and clearance of HPV-associated precancerous lesions. The clinical data corroborates these findings and highlight the importance of Th1 skewing. Improvements in our understanding of tumor immunology and development of more potent Th1-directed vaccine platforms make it feasible to foresee a HPV therapeutic vaccine in the coming years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / immunology
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / pathology
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Active / methods*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / genetics
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / immunology*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral / metabolism
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / immunology
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / immunology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Vaccination


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Oncogene Proteins, Viral
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines