2016 V Foundation Wine Celebration Volunteer Grant
in honor of Pack and Susan and Sheryl Warfield
EBV infects over 90% of the population. It causes infectious mononucleosis (“mono”) among adolescents and 200,000 cancer cases worldwide every year. People infected by EBV may develop Burkitt lymphoma, a disfiguring disease common in children in Africa, Hodgkin lymphoma, head-and-neck cancer, and stomach cancer. EBV infection is typically mild but the virus remains in the body. It can become active again and cause disease in people with a weakened immune system, such as transplant or AIDS patients.
Diagnosis and treatment of cancer related to EBV infection can be difficult. Even though we have known EBV causes cancer in humans since 1965, no vaccine exists. Scientists agree on the urgent need to develop one. Our goal is to develop a safe and effective vaccine to prevent and cure EBV-driven cancers.
We will develop a vaccine using virus-like particles (VLPs). When a person receives the VLP-vaccine before EBV infection, the body will prepare itself to fight infections with antibodies. Also, immune cells will be ready to identify and kill cancer cells hiding EBV. We know our VLP-vaccine works in mice. We will repeat our work in an improved mouse model that has human immune cells. We predict that VLP-vaccine will cause antibodies to be made and will prepare immune cells to fight EBV infection and cancer cells.
If successful, we will test the vaccine in healthy patients to prove its safety. Then, clinical trials in EBV-infected patients will test if the vaccine works, before it is used in the clinic.