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2nd Cervical Cancer Vaccine on the Way?

Study Shows Cervarix Protects Against Virus That Can Cause Cervical Cancer
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 27, 2007 -- A second cervical cancer vaccine, shown in a new study to be highly protective against the sexually transmitted virus that can cause the disease, may soon be available in the U.S.

In a newly published international trial -- the largest study ever of a cervical cancer vaccine -- GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing precancerous cervical lesions over a 15-month period.

The vaccine protects against infection from the two human papillomaviruses (HPV) that cause 70% of cervical cancers worldwide.

Pending approval by the FDA, the vaccine could be available for sale in the U.S. by early next year, a company spokesman tells WebMD.

2 Cervical Cancer Vaccines

If that happens, Cervarix will join Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil, which has been on the market in the U.S. since last June.

Both vaccines protect against cancer by preventing infection from the HPV-16 and HPV-18 subtypes, and both require three shots over the course of six months for full protection.

But both HPV vaccines will not protect against all cervical cancers or all subtypes of HPV. They will not protect you if have already been infected with the covered HPV subtypes.

Gardasil also protects against genital warts by targeting two of the HPV subtypes that cause most of them; Cervarix does not.

James Tursi, MD, of GlaxoSmithKline, tells WebMD that the company chose to limit the uses for its vaccine in hopes of improving its effectiveness.

"Our hope has been that this vaccine would provide the broadest protection against cervical cancer, and this is what the data are showing," he says.

While the vaccine was designed to target HPV-16 and HPV-18, it also showed significant cross-protection against two other HPV subtypes that cause one in 10 cervical cancers in the world.

"This is the first time this kind of cross-protection has been shown in a cervical cancer vaccine trial," he says. "This finding is very exciting."

Whether Cervarix proves to be more effective for cervical cancer prevention than Gardasil remains to be seen.

Glaxo is conducting a head-to-head comparison trial of the two vaccines, with results expected early next year, Tursi says.

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