HIV+ women respond well to HPV vaccine

April 16, 2014

HIV-positive women respond well to a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), even when their immune system is struggling, according to newly published results of an international clinical trial. The study's findings counter doubts about whether the vaccine would be helpful, said the Brown University medical professor who led the study. Instead, the data support the World Health Organization's recommendation to vaccinate women with HIV.

HPV causes cervical and other cancers. The commonly used HPV Gardasil had not been tested in seriously immune-suppressed women with HIV, said Dr. Erna Milunka Kojic, associate professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and The Miriam Hospital. Despite the WHO recommendation, she said, skeptics have wondered whether the vaccine would be safe and helpful for women with weakened immune systems who were already likely to have been exposed to HPV through sex. Vaccines are often less effective in HIV-positive people.

To address that debate, Kojic's study, dubbed "AIDS Clinical Trials Group Protocol 5240," measured the safety and of the vaccine in HIV-positive women aged 13 to 45 with a wide range of immune statuses. In the vast majority of the 315 volunteers who were vaccinated at sites in the United States, Brazil, and South Africa, the vaccine built up antibodies against HPV and posed no unusual safety issues during the 28 weeks they were each involved.

"The vaccine works for HIV-infected women in terms of developing antibodies," Kojic said.

Co-author Dr. Susan Cu-Uvin, professor of public health and of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown, said women with HIV are especially susceptible to cervical cancer from HPV because their are less able to clear the virus. That makes vaccinating HIV-positive women especially important, so long as it's safe and they respond.

Response across the board

To investigate that response in the context of HIV, the study grouped women by their CD4 cell count, a measure of immune system health. Group A had CD4 counts above 350, group B rested between 200 and 350. Group C was composed of women with counts below 200, the defining level of AIDS for which response to an HPV vaccine had not yet been studied.

Gardasil is a "quadrivalent" vaccine, in that it protects against four types of HPV (6, 11, 16, and 18). Each group in the study, therefore, had four measures of "seroconversion," or the buildup of a significant army of antibodies against each type of HPV. The researchers determined that seroconversion in at least 70 percent of patients for each HPV type would define success.

They exceeded that mark in every group for every type, according to the data published in advance online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

"Seroconversion proportions at week 28 among women in CD4 stratum A were 96 percent, 98 percent, 99 percent, and 91 percent for HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 respectively; in stratum B, 100 percent, 98 percent, 98 percent, and 85 percent; and in stratum C, 84 percent, 92 percent, 93 percent and 75 percent for each type respectively," the authors wrote.

Seroconversion rates were clearly lower for women with the weakest immune systems, but still high enough to be worthwhile, Kojic said. And although some of the women in the study had already been exposed to at least one type of HPV, only 1 in 25 had been exposed to all four, suggesting that even older, sexually active women can benefit from vaccination.

The extent of the benefit, she acknowledged, is not yet clear because the trial did not measure the vaccine's efficacy in preventing cancers. It only measured safety and the number of patients who had the desired response. But that response has been shown to be effective in other studies of other populations of women.

What is clear from the study is that the vaccine produced no more side effects or problems than any vaccine typically does.

"Comparing vaccine reactions, this is a very safe vaccine," Kojic said. "It doesn't have any systemic side effects among these women who are already taking medicine for other conditions."

Kojic said she hopes that by confirming that with HIV are responsive to the vaccine without unusual adverse effects, more doctors will vaccinate HIV-positive patients.

Explore further: Reduction in HPV in young women in England seen, following national immunization program

Related Stories

Reduction in HPV in young women in England seen, following national immunization program

April 13, 2014
Each year around 2,000-2,500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in England, the most common cancer in women under 35. Infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HR HPV) types 16 and 18 is responsible for around ...

Current HPV vaccine may not help some women with immune problems

April 7, 2013
Women with HIV acquire cancer-causing forms of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that are not included in the current HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix, according to new research from Fox Chase Cancer Center being presented ...

One dose of HPV vaccine may be enough to prevent cervical cancer

November 4, 2013
Women vaccinated with one dose of a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine had antibodies against the viruses that remained stable in their blood for four years, suggesting that a single dose of vaccine may be sufficient to generate ...

HPV vaccine may benefit HIV-infected women, study finds

November 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Women with HIV may benefit from a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), despite having already been exposed to HPV, a study finds. Although many may have been exposed to less serious forms of HPV, more ...

How cervical cancer vaccines came to be

January 19, 2013
(HealthDay)—The cervical cancer vaccine has turned into one of the biggest success stories in the field.

HIV vaccine research must consider various immune responses

April 3, 2014
Last year, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, held a scientific meeting to examine why certain investigational HIV vaccines may have increased susceptibility ...

Recommended for you

Paris spotlight on latest in AIDS science

July 21, 2017
Some 6,000 HIV experts gather in Paris from Sunday to report advances in AIDS science as fading hopes of finding a cure push research into new fields.

Scientists elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV in calves

July 20, 2017
Scientists supported by the National Institutes of Health have achieved a significant step forward, eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) to HIV by immunizing calves. The findings offer insights for HIV vaccine ...

Heart toxin reveals new insights into HIV-1 integration in T cell genome

July 20, 2017
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 may have evolved to integrate its genetic material into certain immune-cell-activating genes in humans, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Scientists capture first high-resolution image of key HIV protein transitional state

July 13, 2017
A new, three-dimensional snapshot of HIV demonstrates the radical structural transformations that enable the virus to recognize and infect host cells, according to a new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute ...

Barrier to autoimmune disease may open door to HIV, study suggests

July 11, 2017
Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine have discovered that a process that protects the body from autoimmune disease also prevents the immune system from generating antibodies that can neutralize the ...

Team tests best delivery mode for potential HIV vaccine

June 20, 2017
For decades, HIV has successfully evaded all efforts to create an effective vaccine but researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI) are steadily inching ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.