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Cervical cancer vaccine expected in a few years

Cervical cancer vaccine expected in a few years

A vaccine that could prevent young women from developing most cases of cervical cancer could be on the market within a few years. Researchers are testing dozens of vaccines against different types of cancer, but those that protect women against strains of the human papillomavirus, which are linked to more than 70% of cervical cancer cases, are the most advanced. "I believe there will be an HPV vaccine sometime in the next few years," Anne Szarewski, a clinical consultant at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, told journalists. Results from early trials of two vaccines meant to protect against HPV infection, one each developed by drug giants GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, have been promising. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. More than 75% of women are infected with HPV at some time during their lives. The infection usually lasts for a short time and produces no symptoms. But in some women it can progress to cervical cancer, one of the most common cancers in women. Each year 470,000 women around the world are diagnosed with the disease, and 230,000 die, mostly in the developing world, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France. There are more than 100 types of HPV, but HPV 16 and 18 are linked to the majority of cervical cancers. Szarewski is beginning Phase III trials of one of the vaccines in 300 women ages 15 to 25. The women will be given either three doses of the HPV vaccine or a hepatitis A vaccine that will act as the control. "We don't know how long the immunity will last," said Szarewski. "We hope it will deliver lifetime protection against cervical cancer." (Reuters)

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