BACKGROUND: Usual type vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (uVIN) is caused by HPV, predominantly type 16. Several forms of HPV immunotherapy have been studied, however, clinical results could be improved. A novel intradermal administration route, termed DNA tattooing, is superior in animal models, and was tested for the first time in humans with a HPV16 E7 DNA vaccine (TTFC-E7SH).
METHODS: The trial was designed to test safety, immunogenicity, and clinical response of TTFC-E7SH in twelve HPV16+ uVIN patients. Patients received six vaccinations via DNA tattooing. The first six patients received 0.2 mg TTFC-E7SH and the next six 2 mg TTFC-E7SH. Vaccine-specific T-cell immunity was evaluated by IFNγ-ELISPOT and multiparametric flow cytometry.
RESULTS: Only grade I-II adverse events were observed upon TTFC-E7SH vaccination. The ELISPOT analysis showed in 4/12 patients a response to the peptide pool containing shuffled E7 peptides. Multiparametric flow cytometry showed low CD4+ and/or CD8+ T-cell responses as measured by increased expression of PD-1 (4/12 in both), CTLA-4 (2/12 and 3/12), CD107a (5/12 and 4/12), or the production of IFNγ (2/12 and 1/12), IL-2 (3/12 and 4/12), TNFα (2/12 and 1/12), and MIP1β (3/12 and 6/12). At 3 months follow-up, no clinical response was observed in any of the twelve vaccinated patients.
CONCLUSION: DNA tattoo vaccination was shown to be safe. A low vaccine-induced immune response and no clinical response were observed in uVIN patients after TTFC-E7SH DNA tattoo vaccination. Therefore, a new phase I/II trial with an improved DNA vaccine format is currently in development for patients with uVIN.