Although there have been significant advancements in the screening and treatment of cancer, thousands of women every year contract cervical cancer.
Scientists believe that an estimated 80 percent of women will acquire a genital HPV infection by the age of 50, and nearly half of those women will acquire a type of HPV infection which is potentially cancer-causing.
While the risk of HPV infection reaches its peak in younger age women, all are at risk for developing a cancer-causing HPV infection throughout their lifetime.
News is therefore very welcome that a new cervical cancer vaccine has produced a high immune response in women ages 26-55 against persistent infection with HPV types 16 and 18, the two most common cancer-causing HPV types.
Dr. Juan C. Felix, Medical Advisor, NCCC and Chief of Surgical Pathology, University of Southern California, says the findings suggest the vaccine can provide protection for women of all ages and is the first evidence that a cervical cancer vaccine may work in women ages 26 and older.
Recently published data of the Phase 3 trial showed that 666 women received Cervarix injections and all developed antibodies to the two HPV types the vaccine targets.
The antibodies were still present seven months after the first of three doses and remained 12 months after the first shot and the vaccine was “generally safe and well-tolerated” says Glaxo.
Cervarix provided 100% protection against persistent infection with HPV 16 and 18 in younger women for as long as 4.5 years and also offered potential protection against infection with the third and fourth most prevalent cancer-causing types of HPV, 45 and 31.
Together, HPV types 16, 18, 45 and 31 cause more than 80% of cervical cancer cases.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2005 more than 10,000 U.S. women were estimated to have developed cervical cancer, and nearly 4,000 died.
It seems that cervical cancer often hits women in the prime of their lives, while they are working and responsible for children and extended family.
After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most frequently occurring cancer in women ages 20-39.
Results of the study were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.
Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD