Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have developed a method of stimulating an immune response in humans at risk for infection by, or already infected with, an Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-1 retrovirus. This method utilizes deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vaccines to stimulate CD8+ T cell immune responses. The DNA vaccine encodes antigens known to be effective against retroviruses, such as HIV-1gag, gp120, nefCTL, and proCTL. The same antigens are also expressed by the pox virus vaccine, which elicits an increased immune response when combined with the DNA vaccine. The pox virus expands T and B cells activated by the DNA-primer vaccine, confering treatment for and protection against HIV-1 infection. In summary, researchers developed a method of coupling enhanced and prolonged immunoprotective cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses with reduced viremia. This method offers a means to develop a vaccination for infected HIV-1 patients, as well as a method to provide immunization to at-risk individuals.
Stimulating the activation of T cells was shown as critical to design and develop vaccines against HIV. However, vaccinations using either pox viruses or DNA-prime vaccines fail to protect against HIV-1 infection. With more than 30 million people currently infected with HIV and these failed vaccine approaches, there is an unmet need for novel combination therapies that boosts patients’ immune response to the HIV retrovirus.
The National Cancer Institute, Vaccine Branch, seeks parties to co-develop this method of using a DNA vaccine primer with poxvirus vaccination to enhance immune response against HIV-1.