GlaxoSmithKline has released the trial results of a new hepatitis C vaccine which actually came out of their earlier testing of an Ebola vaccine. Early clinical tests show strong, immediate, and broad immune response.
Eleanor Barnes is a scientist at Oxford University’s medical school, in Britain. She describes their work in the laboratory, “In our lab, we spent a lot of time looking at the immune response of people who are able to clear the [Ebola] virus. We know from that work that you need a strong immune response that targets multiple parts of the virus and that is sustained over time—and those are the characteristics that we’ve been able to reproduce in this vaccine trial.”
This is the first hepatitis C vaccine to make it to a second stage clinical trial and test researchers report that their results—albeit minimal—show that the drug is not only effective but also safe and well-tolerated.
Barnes reports that preliminary studies show great promise. “This is as good as it could be for a first go, and I’m optimistic that it will work [in second stage trials].”
She reminds, though, that previous Hep-C treatments which cure the virus do not prevent reinfection from a different strain. That is an important distinction to make.
“In contrast, a vaccine, if it’s effective and it’s a good vaccine, can protect patients with one or two injections for the rest of their life. So vaccines really have proved themselves historically to be the very best medicine.”
Barnes continues “Many patients will present for the first time to a health care physician when their disease is very advanced, because their disease is a silent one until you get advanced liver disease associated with fibrosis and liver cancer.”
Hepatitis C—the chronic infection that leads to liver cirrhosis and sometimes liver cancer and liver failure—will affect an estimated 180 million people around the world next year.