4IN - Immune biology of human papillomaviruses: Implications for vaccine development

Date 29 September 2012
Event ESMO Congress 2012
Session HPV biology and implications in gynecological malignancies
Topics Immunotherapy
Gynaecological Malignancies
Presenter Lutz Gissmann
Authors L. Gissmann
  • Division Of Genome Modifications And Carcinogenesis, Gerrman Cancer Research Center, 69120 - Heidelberg/DE


The “high-risk” types of human papillomaviruses (HPV), in particular PV 16 and 18 are responsible for the development of almost all cases of cervical cancer, for a substantial fraction of other malignant anogenital tumors (penis, vulva and perianum) and for a proportion of head and neck cancer. The natural history of HPV infections and immunization experiments in animals with their respective papillomaviruses (e.g. the canine oral papillomavirus) clearly revealed the involvement of the immune system in controlling the viral infections and the diseases associated therewith. Antibodies appear to be the key molecules in preventing of an infection whereas mostly T cells and cytokines are involved in controlling virus persistence and progression towards malignancy.

During the natural course of infection human papillomaviruses are not particularly immunogenic since their biology makes them barely “visible” by the immune system (infection is confined to the epithelium) but also since it has acquired the ability to actively suppress certain immune functions. This is in remarkable contrast to the strong immune response induced by i.m. immunization with virus particles when they become exposed to and interact directly with circulating antigen presenting cells. There is mounting awareness about the mechanisms of these interactions.


Lutz Gissmann is a consultant to GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur MSD and, due to existing intellectual property, receives royalties from sales of Gardasil® and Cervarix®