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Cervical Cancer Vaccine Reported To Be 100 Percent Effective, But Eradication Is Still A Long Way Off
The first large study of the experimental cervical cancer vaccine found it was 100 percent effective, at least in the short term, at blocking the most common forms of cervical cancer.
The cervical cancer vaccine, known as Gardasil, is a genetically engineered vaccine which prevents cervical cancer by blocking infection with two viruses called HPV 16 and 18. These two virus together cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.
The final-stage study of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil included more than 10,000 women ages 16 to 26 in the United States and 12 other countries. All were sexually active and were not infected with HPV 16 or 18. Half got three vaccine doses over six months; the other half received dummy shots.
After six months, none of the women who were virus free and who received the vaccine developed either cervical cancer or precancerous lesions likely to turn cancerous during a two year follow up. Twenty one women who got the dummy shots had a virus.
Merck & Co., the developer, jubilantly announced the results of their cervical cancer vaccine research on October 6th, 2005, saying that a 100% efficacy rate is extremely rare.
A second analysis was also done, this time involving hundreds more women. It showed that the vaccine was 97 percent effective after just one dose. Only one of the 5,736 women who got the vaccine developed cervical cancer or precancerous lesions, compared with 36 among the 5,766 who got dummy shots.
A Merck official called the 97 percent rate "real world," since patients sometimes miss or delay follow-up shots or tests. Therefore, even though the vaccine is available, some women may not get it before they contract the disease.
"I see this as a phenomenal breakthrough," said Dr. Gloria Bachmann, director of The Women's Health Institute at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
But she added that vaccinations would have to begin early to have maximum impact. "In grammar school, middle school, high school, before girls become sexually active," she said.
Dr. Kevin Ault, a professor at Emory University, told CNN, "We are talking about maybe a generation or two of women to receive this vaccine before we get to no more pap smears. I guess the best example I could give you would be German measles... That vaccine became available in the late '60s in the United States, and it was just last year that our colleagues at the CDC reported that there were no cases of congenital rubella in the United States."
Numerous health officials warned that women will still need to have reular checkups and pap smears.
NBC News has reported that some religious groups fear that the availability of a cervical cancer vaccine will lessen the worry of contracting the disease and lead to increased sexual activity.
Cervical cancer is the second-most common cancer in women and their No. 2 cause of cancer deaths. About three thousand women die of cervical cancer in the U.S. each year, and about three hundred thousand women around the world are cervical cancer victims.
For additional information, including symptoms of cervical cancer and options for cervical cancer prevention and cervical cancer treatment, Visit http://www.cervicalcancervaccine.us/
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