Background: Vacc-4x, a therapeutic HIV vaccine candidate has previously induced a significant reduction in viral load (VL) set-point compared to placebo upon interruption of combination anti-retroviral therapy (ART) (2007/1 study). This study, (2012/1), explored the potential to maintain Vacc-4x effect by re-boosting eligible 2007/1 study participants.
Methods: Participant inclusion required 2007/1 participants to have completed all Vacc-4x immunizations and interrupted ART for up to 26 weeks. At weeks (wk)0 and 2, participants received intradermal (i.d.) Vacc-4x booster immunizations (1.2mg) on ART with GM-CSF (60μg) i.d. as a local adjuvant. ART was interrupted for up to 16 weeks (wk12-wk28). Participants were then followed on ART until wk36. VL set-point, total proviral DNA (pvDNA) and immunogenicity assessed by IFN-γ ELISPOT, T-cell proliferation and delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions were compared to participants' values in the 2007/1 study where available.
Results: This open, multicenter, clinical study enrolled 33 participants from 9 clinical trial sites in the US and Europe. In the per-protocol (PP) population, the VL set-point geometric mean (GM) 18162 copies/mL was not significantly changed compared to the 2007/1 study (GM VL 22035 copies/mL), (p = 0.453, n = 18). For participants with available preART VL values, the VL set-point (GM 26279 copies/mL) remained significantly lower than the preART VL set-point (GM 74048 copies/mL, p = 0.021, n = 13). A statistically significant reduction in pvDNA (49%) from baseline to wk4 was observed (p = 0.03, n = 26). DTH responses (wk4) increased significantly from baseline (p = 0.006, n = 30) and compared to the 2007/1 study (p = 0.022, n = 29) whilst the proportion of participants with ELISPOT and T-cell proliferation responses was similar between the two studies.
Conclusions: Vacc-4x booster immunizations safely maintained the mean VL set-point at that established following primary Vacc-4x therapeutic immunization. The reduction in pvDNA during ART supports the potential for Vacc-4x immunization to reduce HIV reservoirs and thereby contribute to combination HIV cure strategies.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01712256.