A protective vaccine against hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains an unmet clinical need. HCV infects millions of people worldwide and is a leading cause of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular cancer. Animal challenge experiments, immunogenetics studies, and assessment of host immunity during acute infection highlight the critical role that effective T cell immunity plays in viral control. In this first-in-man study, we have induced antiviral immunity with functional characteristics analogous to those associated with viral control in natural infection, and improved upon a vaccine based on adenoviral vectors alone. We assessed a heterologous prime-boost vaccination strategy based on a replicative defective simian adenoviral vector (ChAd3) and modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vector encoding the NS3, NS4, NS5A, and NS5B proteins of HCV genotype 1b. Analysis used single-cell mass cytometry and human leukocyte antigen class I peptide tetramer technology in healthy human volunteers. We show that HCV-specific T cells induced by ChAd3 are optimally boosted with MVA, and generate very high levels of both CD8(+) and CD4(+) HCV-specific T cells targeting multiple HCV antigens. Sustained memory and effector T cell populations are generated, and T cell memory evolved over time with improvement of quality (proliferation and polyfunctionality) after heterologous MVA boost. We have developed an HCV vaccine strategy, with durable, broad, sustained, and balanced T cell responses, characteristic of those associated with viral control, paving the way for the first efficacy studies of a prophylactic HCV vaccine.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01296451.
Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.