Patients with human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) infection and low-grade cervical dysplasia [low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL)/CIN1] or atypical squamous cells [atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US)/atypical squamous cells- cannot exclude high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (ASC-H)] require active surveillance for disease progression. A safe and effective immunotherapy to clear HPV16 is an unmet medical need. The safety run-in cohort of a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II trial of PVX2 [vaccination twice with HPV16-targeting pNGVL4a-Sig/E7(detox)/HSP70 plasmid and once with the HPV16 L2E7E6 fusion protein “TA-CIN”] as immunotherapy for patients with HPV16+ ASC-US, ASC-H, or LSIL/CIN1 (NCT03911076) was recently completed. The primary objective of this cohort was to determine the safety and tolerability of PVX2 vaccination. Subjects were confirmed to have HPV16 infection and LSIL/CIN1, ASC-US, or ASC-H. Adverse events were evaluated using Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events v5.0. HPV typing by HPV16 18/45 Aptima Assay was done at baseline, month 6, and month 12, with simultaneous cytology analysis. Cervical biopsies and endocervical curettage were performed at baseline and month 6. In the safety run-in cohort 12 eligible patients were enrolled. Each received three monthly immunizations. One was lost to follow-up after week 12. There were no serious adverse events. A total of five adverse events were noted by 4 patients; 4 were considered not vaccine-related, and one ‘unlikely related’ by the investigator. At month 6, 45% (5/11) of participants converted to HPV16-negative and 2 others developed CIN2+ and received a loop electrosurgical excision procedure. At month 12, 64% (7/11) were HPV16-negative, including those HPV16-negative at month 6. In conclusion, PVX2 immunotherapy was well tolerated and associated with viral regression, supporting further testing.
This safety run-in study cohort suggests that PVX2 immunotherapy is well tolerated in the target population and is sufficiently safe to warrant further clinical testing in a randomized study. The combined vaccines may facilitate higher-than-expected rate of human papillomavirus type 16 viral clearance 6 and 12 months after treatment, although this requires validation.