February 7, 2014
HCV Vaccine Is Still a Holy Grail
As HCV treatment options continue to improve and we develop better tools to aid our monitoring of patients for liver disease progression, an obvious question comes to mind: Is there still clear value in striving to develop an as-yet elusive preventive vaccine for HCV?
For Cox, the answer is a resounding yes. Even as treatments grow more effective, they also carry huge price tags and are still associated with numerous side effects. Data also indicate that HCV treatment cannot protect a patient against reinfection. And a high hurdle remains to providing effective care to HCV-infected patients who may be in need of treatment, in part because the disease is usually initially asymptomatic, and in part because the highest rates of HCV infection rates tend to occur among deeply marginalized groups (such as injection drug users and those living in resource-poor regions) for whom access to HCV testing and care are often severely limited.
The U.S. health department appears to agree with this assessment, Cox said. In addition to calling a preventive HCV vaccine a "high priority" in its 2011 Viral Hepatitis Action Plan, it has also funded the Vaccine is Prevention study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial that will seek to enroll 344 patients. Cox is one of two principal investigators on the study, alongside Kimberly Page, Ph.D., M.P.H., a professor at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine.
Myles Helfand is the editorial director of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Myles on Twitter: @MylesatTheBody.
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