Research & Innovation 2015-16 - Page 81

Cheaper HPV vaccine might come from tobacco
In a pioneering step towards using plants to produce vaccines
against cervical cancer and other viruses, UCT researchers
have generated synthetic human papillomavirus-derived viral
particles called pseudovirions in tobacco plants.
Biopharming uses plants as
‘biological factories’. They
have been used to create flu
vaccines, potential anti-Ebola
drugs, and an enzyme used
to treat Gaucher’s disease in
people. Now, researchers from
the Biopharming Research
Unit (BPRU) report using
tobacco plants to create
synthetic viral particles known
as pseudovirions. These
pseudovirions look like viral
infections, but contain no
infectious viral DNA.
The shell of this newly-created
pseudovirion was of the human
papillomavirus (HPV) type 16,
which is responsible for more
than 50% of cervical cancer
cases worldwide.
This is the first
time researchers
have successfully
in plants – up to
now, yeast and
mammalian cell
cultures have
been the glass
ceiling. The BRU
team hope this
new plant-based
technology could
one day be used
to test future HPV
Image by Magnus Manske,
Wikimedia Commons.
Lack of rehabilitation for women after breast cancer surgery impacts their ability to work
While improved cancer treatment protocols lead to higher survival rates and reduced side effects,
many women develop upper limb pain, dysfunction and swelling for up to six years post-surgery – all of
which impact on the patient’s quality of life and their ability to return to work.
To better understand the
impact of this pain and
dysfunction in South Africa,
Dr Delva Shamley, director
of the Clinical Research
Centre, led a prevalence
study involving over 300
patients. Shamley’s study
showed that even up to two
years post-treatment, 78%
of the participants were
unemployed; 41% had a
swollen arm; 48% reported
pain associated with shoulder
movement at a level shown to
interfere with the activities of
daily living; and 43% scored
greater than 40 for disability
(out of a maximum of 80).
Despite these findings,
current access to
rehabilitation services is
patchy to non-existent. That
this aspect of care does not
fall into the standard cancercare pathway means that
patients remain uneducated
and unmanaged with
respect to the long-term
impact of treatment.
In the absence of
comprehensive social
support in South Africa,
most women cannot
afford not to work after
receiving breast cancer
treatment. In order to
enable women to reenter the workforce after
receiving treatment, “a
public-health intervention
for breast cancer-related
lymphoedema and upper
limb pain and dysfunction
is crucial,” says Shamley.
Her team continues to
work towards developing
a suitable intervention
that will be delivered at all
levels of care.
Gender 76

Wikimedia Commons

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