The discovery of genotype 16 as the prototype oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) initiated a quarter century of laboratory and epidemiological studies that demonstrated their necessary, but not sufficient, aetiological role in cervical and several other anogenital and oropharyngeal cancers. Early virus-induced immune deviation can lead to persistent subclinical infection that brings the risk of progression to cancer. Effective secondary prevention of cervical cancer through cytological and/or HPV screening depends on regular and widespread use in the general population, but coverage is inadequate in low-resource settings. The discovery that the major capsid antigen L1 could self-assemble into empty virus-like particles (VLPs) that are both highly immunogenic and protective led to the licensure of several prophylactic VLP-based HPV vaccines for the prevention of cervical cancer. The implementation of vaccination programmes in adolescent females is underway in many countries, but their impact critically depends on the population coverage and is improved by herd immunity. This Review considers how our expanding knowledge of the virology and immunology of HPV infection can be exploited to improve vaccine technologies and delivery of such preventive strategies to maximize reductions in HPV-associated disease, including incorporation of an HPV vaccine covering oncogenic types within a standard multitarget paediatric vaccine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research