Scientists announced Friday that a new vaccine could prevent most cases of cervical cancer, which kills around a quarter of a million women each year. Dartmouth Medical School researcher Diane Harper and colleagues tested the vaccine, known as Cervarix, which protects against two strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. "This is the first time we have shown that there is a vaccine that protects against the only cause of a cancer and we can actually prevent 70% of all cervical cancer worldwide," said Harper, adding that larger trials with long-term follow-up are needed to confirm the initial results. Cervarix was developed by United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmithKline.
Cervical cancer affects about 470,000 women each year. Survival rates are good if the disease is detected and treated early. According to scientists, the best way to fight cervical cancer is a vaccine to prevent persistent HPV infection, combined with a screening program. At least 75% of women are infected with HPV at some point in their lives; however, the infection is usually brief and without symptoms.
Harper and colleagues tested Cervarix on 1,113 women ages 15-25 in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. The women were randomly selected to receive three doses of the vaccine or a placebo. Follow-up was 27 months. The scientists reported Cervarix was 91% effective against infection with HPV strains 16 and 18 and provided 100% protection against persistent infections that can lead to cancer. "The vaccine was safe and had few side effects," the researchers said.
Two weeks ago GSK announced it had changed the filing date for worldwide regulatory approval of Cervarix from 2008 to 2006. Drugmaker Merck is also developing a similar vaccine that industry analysts expect to be filed in the latter part of 2005. (Reuters)