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New vaccine vows to expel cervical cancer

The new vaccine, given at puberty, has been found to be 100 % effective.

April 7, 2006

A new vaccine, which is currently under development, is found 100% effective against a vast majority of uterine cancer caused by four papillomavirus types, according to reports. 

Papillomavirus is considered to be the main cause behind cervical cancer.

If proved effective it can eliminate more than 80 per cent of cervical cancers in the near future. by a long-lasting vaccine that destroys the main viruses causing the disease, the lead author of a new study says.

Researchers from New Hampshire's Dartmouth Medical School found that given at puberty, the vaccine has been shown to be 100 per cent effective in killing off four papillomavirus types. 

Worldover, the casualty from cervical cancer is huge. The disease kills roughly about 500,000 women a year globally, and is second only to breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in females. About 1,400 cervical cancer cases are diagnosed each year in Canada and about 400 women die of the disease.

The new paper is a follow-up to a 2004 study that showed the vaccine was effective in fighting the HPV 16 and HPV 18 viruses. It suggests that one shot of the vaccine might last a lifetime.

"The vaccine would be given to males and females in their teens since the HPV viruses can be passed from men and women during intercourse'', the study said. 

Women are at increased risk of cervical cancer if they are sexually active or if they have many sexual partners. 

Sexual activity at a young age can heighten the risk because during puberty cervical tissues are changing so rapidly and the area might be more vulnerable.

The virus can live on the outer cervical tissue for up to three years before migrating into lower cell layers, where it can reproduce, and cancer sets in.

A long acting vaccine is important because HPV viruses often work silently for a decade or more in the cervical area before the onset of cancer.

As well, a significant majority of cervical cancer deaths occur in poorer Latin American and Southeast Asian countries, where access to medical services is scarce and follow-up vaccines may be problematic.

The vaccine has also been shown to fight off two other cancer-causing viruses HPV 45 and HPV 31'. But the vaccine does not herald an end to Pap tests, in which sample cells are taken from the cervix to detect abnormal changes that may arise from cancer or before cancer develops.

Currently, a pair of clinical cervical vaccine trials at Dartmouth run by pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Merck are underway.

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