VGX-3100 SynCon® vaccine for cervical dysplasia
MilestoneAchieved primary efficacy endpoint in phase II trial in July, 2014
VGX-3100 is an investigational SynCon® therapeutic DNA immunotherapy candidate designed to treat precancers and cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). VGX-3100 includes plasmids targeting the E6 and E7 proteins of HPV types 16 and 18. Intramuscular injection of the plasmid DNA vaccine is followed by electroporation using our CELLECTRA® delivery device.
In a phase II trial, VGX-3100 induced regression of precancerous cervical disease and cleared HPV infection with robust T cell responses.
In July, 2014, Inovio completed a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase II trial of VGX-3100 in women with biopsy-proven cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2/3 (CIN2/3) associated with HPV types 16 or 18. Meeting its efficacy endpoints, the results of this study represent a significant step toward providing women and physicians a non-surgical treatment for precancerous lesions. VGX-3100 induced regression of a cervical intraepithelial neoplastic process and eliminated high risk HPV infection. These results will guide the advancement of VGX-3100 for precancerous dysplasias as well as HPV-associated cervical, head and neck, and anogenital cancers.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease. At any given time, approximately 11% percent of the world population is infected with HPV. Roughly 90% of HPV infections are cleared by naturally occurring immune responses within two years.
Persistent HPV infection can lead to dysplasia, or premalignant changes, in cervical cells. HPV types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer cases. Each year in the United States, 1.4 million women are diagnosed with CIN1 and 300,000-400,000 women are diagnosed with CIN 2/3. All cervical cancers arise from untreated CIN2/3
VGX-3100 Therapeutic Cervical Dysplasia Vaccine
In July, 2014, Inovio completed a phase II clinical trial for VGX-3100, its investigational synthetic DNA immunotherapy for precancers and cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).
The study, designated HPV-003, assessed adult females with CIN 2 or CIN 3 and biopsy-proven HPV 16 or 18. The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study in women evaluated cervical tissue changes after three 6 mg doses of VGX-3100 in a 1 mL intramuscular injection followed by electroporation with Inovio’s CELLECTRA® device at weeks 0, 4, and 12. Cervical tissue was examined before starting blinded treatment and 9 months later.
The primary endpoint of this study was to assess regression of cervical lesions from CIN 2 or CIN 3 to CIN 1 or no disease. A secondary endpoint was to clear HPV 16 or 18 in conjunction with regression of CIN 2/3 to CIN or no disease. The study evaluated the efficacy of the vaccine in patients who received VGX-3100 at 0, 4 and 12 weeks compared to placebo recipients, based on biopsies performed before the blinded treatments and six months after the final treatment.
The study also explored humoral and cell mediated immune responses to VGX-3100 in blood samples taken prior to the first vaccine dose and periodically thereafter. Cervical samples were analyzed for evidence of immune responses in the cervix at the beginning of the trial and subsequent intervals. Subjects were also monitored for tolerability and safety.
VGX-3100 SynCon® Therapeutic Cervical Dysplasia Vaccine
Phase II Results: Inovio achieved primary and secondary endpoints
In July, 2014, Inovio reported that in a phase II study, treatment with VGX-3100 resulted in histopathological regression of CIN2/3 to CIN1 or no disease, meeting the study’s primary endpoint. In the per protocol analysis, CIN2/3 resolved to CIN1 or no disease in 53 of 107 (49.5%) women treated with VGX-3100 compared to 11 of 36 (30.6%) who received placebo. This difference was statistically significant.
In addition, the trial demonstrated clearance of HPV in conjunction with regression of cervical lesions. Virological clearance of HPV 16 or 18 from the cervix in conjunction with histopathological regression of cervical dysplasia to CIN1 or no disease, a secondary endpoint of the trial, was observed in 43 of 107 (40.2%) VGX-3100 recipients compared to 5 of 35 (14.3%) placebo recipients.
As in the phase I study, VGX-3100 also elicited robust HPV-specific T cell responses in the majority of treated subjects. A comprehensive analysis of T cell responses is ongoing.
The treatment was generally well-tolerated, with only administration site redness occurring significantly more frequently in the VGX-3100 group compared to the placebo group in the 7- and 28-day periods following treatment.
Detailed study findings will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
Phase I Results
In 2010, Inovio completed a phase I dose escalation study of VGX-3100, its investigational therapeutic DNA vaccine designed to treat HPV-caused precancerous cervical dysplasia, delivered with its CELLECTRA® electroporation device. The study treated 18 women who had previously been diagnosed with and surgically treated for high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN 2/3), a premalignant lesion that may lead to cervical cancer, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18.
Data from the phase I trial indicate:
- Antigen-specific, dose-related T-cell responses across the three dose groups.
- Unprecedented T-cell responses not achieved by a DNA vaccine or any other non-replicating vaccine platform in humans.
- Strong antigen-specific antibody responses in all three dose groups.
- VGX-3100 delivered using Inovio's proprietary CELLECTRA® intramuscular electroporation delivery device was generally safe and well tolerated at all dose levels.
- There were no vaccine-related serious adverse events. Reported adverse events and injection site reactions were mild to moderate and required no treatment.
These results were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science-Translational Medicine, in a paper entitled, "Immunotherapy against HPV 16/18 generates potent Th1 and cytotoxic cellular immune responses."
Response rate and magnitude
The paper reported that 78% (14 of 18) of the patients showed antigen-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL, or killer T-cell) responses against at least one of the four antigens (E6 and E7 proteins for HPV types 16 and 18) in the ELISpot assay. At month four, 14 of 18 vaccinated subjects (78%) had developed significant T-cell responses, with positive responses ranging from 100 to over 5000 SFU per million cells. In the third and highest dose group, 83% (5 of 6) had strong T-cell responses, with average responses of 1458 SFU per million cells after three immunizations. This was a 114% increase compared to the intermediate dose cohort average of 683 SFU per million cells (four responders out of six) and a 125% increase compared to the low dose cohort average of 648 SFU per million cells (four responders out of six).
As indicated by the chart and table below, the T-cell levels generated by VGX-3100 far exceed those generated by competitive technologies.
In an extension of this phase I study, T-cell immune data 24 weeks after the last immunization was analyzed among responders. Immune data showed that the responses were still detectable in 86% of evaluable patients, indicating that T-cell responses persisted for at least six months after the final immunization. At the latest time measured, Inovio reported durability of T-cell immune responses over two years in 7 of 8 evaluated patients following a fourth vaccination of VGX-3100.
Further tests of T-cell immunity among responders measured the ability of CD8+ T-cells from vaccinated patients to kill cells displaying HPV antigens on their surface: 91% of patients (10/11) who developed T-cell responses showed the presence of CD8+ T-cells capable of this type of killing activity (so-called "killer T-cells"), which is believed to be critical for the treatment of cervical dysplasia and ultimately cancer caused by HPV.
Overall, 100% of the study participants (18 of 18) reported antibody positivity to at least two vaccine antigens. Specific antibody responses to tumor antigens can function as an important surrogate potency marker for determining the immunogenicity of a vaccine, i.e. the ability of a vaccine to induce an immune response.
In an extension of this phase I study, Inovio reported durability of T-cell immune responses over two years (at the latest time measured) in 7 of 8 evaluated patients following a fourth vaccination of VGX-3100.
In general, the durability of these T-cell responses places Inovio's DNA vaccine technology on par with live virus vaccines, but without their various safety and other issues, and substantially exceeds current data from alternative non-replicating vaccine technologies. Furthermore, being able to use multiple vaccinations without safety concerns or unwanted immune responses is a notable advantage of Inovio's DNA vaccine technology.
Cervical Dysplasia and Cancer Caused by HPV
An estimated 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV; 14 million people become newly infected each year. Many people who have HPV are asymptomatic and can pass the virus to others without knowing it.
While 90% of HPV infections clear naturally within two years, persistent infections may lead to benign atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS). This condition may possibly progress to the abnormal cells referred to as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).
CIN is classified in three grades based on what part of the cervical epithelium is affected by the abnormal cell growth. CIN 1, the least risky type, represents only mild dysplasia and is confined to the basal 1/3 of the epithelium. Of the estimated 1.4 million CIN 1 dysplasias, 35 - 50% are caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. CIN 2 is moderate dysplasia confined to the basal 2/3 of the epithelium, while CIN 3 is severe dysplasia spanning more than 2/3 of the epithelium, and may involve the full thickness. Up to 70% of CIN 2/3 dysplasias and cervical cancers are caused by two high-risk HPV types, HPV 16 or 18.
Most low-grade cervical lesions go away in 18 to 24 months without treatment. More severe or “high-grade” cervical lesions usually don’t fix themselves without treatment. High-grade cervical dysplasia is more dangerous because it’s more likely to lead to cervical cancer.
Patients with early dysplasias must typically endure a stressful “watch-and-wait” period to see if the disease naturally clears on its own. In the case of high-grade dysplasias designated as CIN 2/3 or CIN 3, ablative or surgical procedures are used to remove the precancerous lesions. These procedures may be unappealing due to their invasiveness and possible negative impact on child birthing.
Inovio Pharmaceuticals’ investigational therapeutic synthetic vaccine candidate, VGX-3100, is designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to clear HPV 16 and 18 and precancerous cells of the cervix in women with CIN 2/3 or CIN 3 and biopsy-proven HPV 16 or 18. The objective is for this immunotherapy to enable production by cells in the body targeting the E6 and E7 antigenic proteins related to HPV types 16 and 18. The DNA code cannot create HPV or cause detrimental cell changes of the cervix. However, production of these two proteins can enhance the immune system’s recognition of cells infected by HPV and may strengthen the body’s ability to clear cells of the cervix that have undergone detrimental cell changes.
VGX-3100 is injected into a patient’s shoulder muscle. This is followed by the application of controlled electrical pulses using Inovio’s CELLECTRA®-5P system. The electrical pulses enhance the body’s immune response to the vaccine. This treatment method does not involve ablation or a surgical procedure.
Looking to the future, Inovio aims to apply this therapeutic vaccine to cervical cancers and to earlier stage CIN 1 lesions.
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