HPV: New therapy appears to rid body of human papillomavirus

Once someone is infected with the human papillomavirus or HPV, there's been absolutely nothing that cleared the infection -- until now.

Researchers say they've had success in phase two trials of a new vaccine that helps the body rid itself of the virus.

For Sandy LaLonde, cancer was the last thing she was thinking about in her early 30s, until months of irregular periods convinced her to see her doctor for testing.

"She said we have bad news. Your high-risk HPV test came back positive and we're pretty sure you have cervical cancer," LaLonde said.

The cancer was stage 2A and had spread. LaLonde needed eight rounds of chemo and 25 rounds of external radiation to treat it.

Dr. Diane Harper, a senior associate director and professor of family medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan, is studying a new therapy that she hopes will wipe out cervical cancer by eliminating the HPV virus that can cause it.

"Unlike chlamydia or gonorrhea where you can take an antibiotic and get cured, we don't have anything that will get rid of HPV," Harper said.

Researchers enrolled 200 women with pre-cancerous cervical lesions and gave them three injections one week apart. The therapy was a protein that triggered an immune response.

"It activates the immune system to go in and find the cells that are infected with HPV or the cells that have started to change because of HPV and attack them," Harper said.

At the end of six months, between 25% and 33% of the participants were cleared of lesions and HPV.

"I think having the ability to clear the body of HPV is amazing just because they don't have cancer from, it doesn't mean they don't have a whole host of other complications," said LaLonde.

Harper says it's important to note that the vaccine researchers are testing is different from Gardasil, the vaccine given to preteens to prevent HPV. The vaccine that is being tested clears tissue that already has HPV. Additional trials are needed before this new vaccine could be considered by the FDA for approval.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.