Xiaojie Chu 1 , 2 , 3 , Yang Li 1 , 2 , 3 , Qiong Long 1 , 2 , 3 , Ye Xia 1 , 2 , 3 , Yufeng Yao 1 , 2 , 3 , Wenjia Sun 1 , 2 , 3 , Weiwei Huang 1 , 2 , 3 , Xu Yang 1 , 2 , 3 , Cunbao Liu 1 , 2 , 3 , Yanbing Ma 1 , 2 , 3
27 May 2016
Therapeutic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines are currently being developed. However, no therapeutic efficacy has been achieved in clinical trials for the treatment of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or cancer. One of the important issues in increasing vaccine efficacy is determining the best way to enhance tumor antigen-specific cellular immune responses. This study aimed to explore the virus-like particles (VLPs) of hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg) as potential therapeutic vaccine carriers and to assess its immunological characteristics.
Chimeric VLPs presenting a HPV 16 cytotoxic T lymphocytes epitope E7 49–57 (amino acid 49–57 of the E7 protein) were prepared using recombinant genes. C57BL/6 mice were immunized with VLPs and grafted with tumor cells TC-1 which is an E7-expressing tumorigenic cell line. The dynamic tumor growth was monitored and anti-tumor immune responses were investigated.
Using a preventive strategy, immunization with VLPs resulted in nearly complete suppression of tumor growth. In treatment studies, VLP immunization significantly suppressed the tumor progression in mice carrying 2–3 mm tumors and in those bearing even larger tumors with diameters up to 8–9 mm. The VLP structure was shown to be important to induce vigorous antitumor immunity and effects. In immunized mice, enhanced E7 49–57-specific cellular immune responses were evidenced by increased interferon (IFN)-γ expression and decreased interleukin (IL)-4 expression in splenic lymphocytes, as well as an elevated number of effector cells expressing IFN-γ in response to the in vitro stimulation of the specific peptide E7 49–57. In addition, effective immune memory after VLP immunization was maintained for at least 16 weeks, preventing significant tumor growth after subsequent TC-1 challenge.