Therapeutic vaccines in HBV: lessons from HCV.
Currently, millions of people infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) are committed to decades of treatment with anti-viral therapy to control viral replication. However, new tools for immunotherapy that include both viral vectors and molecular checkpoint inhibitors are now available. This has led to a resurgence of interest in new strategies to develop immunotherapeutic strategies with the aim of inducing HBeAg seroconversion--an end-point that has been associated with a decrease in the rates of disease progression. Ultimately, a true cure will involve the elimination of covalently closed circular DNA which presents a greater challenge for immunotherapy. In this manuscript, I describe the development of immunotherapeutic strategies for HBV that are approaching or currently in clinical studies, and draw on observations of T cell function in natural infection supported by recent animal studies that may lead to additional rational vaccine strategies using checkpoint inhibitors. I also draw on our recent experience in developing potent vaccines for HCV prophylaxis based on simian adenoviral and MVA vectors used in prime-boost strategies in both healthy volunteers and HCV infected patients. I have shown that the induction of T cell immune responses is markedly attenuated when administered to people with persistent HCV viremia. These studies and recently published animal studies using the woodchuck model suggest that potent vaccines based on DNA or adenoviral vectored vaccination represent a rational way forward. However, combining these with drugs to suppress viral replication, alongside checkpoint inhibitors may be required to induce long-term immune control.