Cervical cancer is the second largest cause of cancer-related death in women worldwide, and it occurs following persistent infection, sometimes for decades, with a specific subset of human papillomavirus (HPV) types; the approximately 13 oncogenic subtypes. Prophylactic vaccines against HPV infections hold promise for cost-effective reductions in the incidence of cervical cancer, but this may not be enough. Two prophylactic HPV vaccines are presently available and both contain L1 virus-like particles (VLPs) derived from the HPV subtypes most frequently associated with cervical cancer, HPV-16 and -18. Since the L1-VLP vaccines can only effectively prevent infection by the specific HPV subtype against which the vaccine was developed, cervical cancers caused by high-risk HPV subtypes other than HPV-16 and -18 may still occur in recipients of the current HPV vaccines. Furthermore, HPV vaccination coverage for adolescents is insufficient in most countries and therefore even HPV-16 and -18 infections are unlikely to be fully eradicated using the existing strategies. The development of HPV therapeutic vaccines remains essential. Many therapeutic vaccines aimed at clearing HPV-related cervical lesions have been developed and tested in patients with HPV16-positive cervical intraepithelial lesions (CIN) or cervical cancers. To date, definitive clinical efficacy and appropriate immunological responses have never been demonstrated for cervical neoplasia although promising results have been reported in patients with vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia. Here we discuss shortcomings of previous HPV therapeutic vaccine candidates and propose a novel vaccination strategy that leverages newly gained knowledge about mucosal immunity and the induction of mucosal immune responses.
Keywords: HPV therapeutic vaccine, mucosal vaccination, cervical mucosal immune system, E7-expressing lactobacillusbases vaccine.